Turkey saved Libya from chaos, foreign minister says

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has told the Africa Report that Turkey’s intervention in Libya in January 2020 helped to stabilise the country.

Turkey intervened to support the UN-backed, Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj. At the time, the GNA was under siege by the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, who controls the east of Libya and is supported by Egypt, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey’s assistance helped the GNA turn the tide of the conflict, and a ceasefire was signed between the two opposing sides on Oct. 23. Turkey’s parliament approved a decision to keep troops in Libya for a further 18 months on Dec. 22.

An intra-Libyan dialogue process is currently ongoing, and Çavuşoğlu said that, even if this process fails, there can be no military solution to the conflict. “We support the ongoing U.N.-led political process and welcome the decision of the Libyans to conduct elections on Dec. 24 2021.”

Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey’s intervention had helped to encourage a “Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political solution” to the conflict, and when asked whether the presence of Russian and Turkish-backed mercenaries was harmful to Libya, said that “the mercenary problem requires a comprehensive approach”.

Turkey’s foreign minister said that his country was taking the lead among NATO countries, and that the Libyan conflict was a “litmus test” for the organisation’s “ability to manage crises in its immediate vicinity”.  

“We keep telling our counterparts within NATO that the alliance should start to assess the ways to assist Libya in the area of defence and security institution building,” Çavuşoğlu said.

He went on to say that Turkey was pleased to work with Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and had insisted on involving them in the Berlin Conference process. “We are supporting the constructive efforts of these three countries in the Libyan conflict. We are also willing to cooperate with them to rebuild war-torn Libyan cities after the end of the crisis,” Çavuşoğlu stated.

Despite a ceasefire which requires foreign governments to stop training military factions in Libya, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey would continue to train the GNA   forces on that basis of U.N. resolutions requiring “members of the international community to support GNA as the sole legitimate government of Libya.”

The GNA  has signed an agreement with Turkey delimiting its maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. The deal gives Turkey a claim to disputed maritime zones between Libya, Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey was “ready to talk to all littoral countries we have diplomatic relations with”, but that Greece “does not want to engage with us. Nor the Greek Cypriots with the Turkish Cypriots.”.

He proposed a “regional conference in the eastern Mediterranean as a step towards a lasting and peaceful settlement”. in the Mare Nostrum.”, referencing a historical term for the region.