Turkey’s policy in Libya threatens EU
The Turkish intervention into the Libyan conflict caused the negative effect for the region: the balance of power changed and the GNA liberated Tripoli from the LNA forces and recently started a big-scale offensive on Sirte city. On 6th of June after negotiations with the Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa – Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the president of Egypt issued the Cairo Declaration.
It is based on the agreements reached at the Berlin Conference on Libya in January. According to Cairo Declaration, “all parties undertake to cease fire from 6 a.m. local time on Monday, 8 June”. In addition, it provides for the continuation of negotiations in Geneva under UN patronage of a joint military committee in the 5+5 format (five representatives from each side). Further progress on other issues, including political, economic and security, will depend on the success of its work.
European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Mayo welcomed the declaration and called for the cessation of all hostilities in Libya and the withdrawal of all foreign troops and military equipment from the country.
French president noted that Turkey is playing ‘the dangerous game’ in Libya. “I don’t want in six months, or one year or two, to see that Libya is in the situation that Syria is in today,” he added.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendyas announced on Wednesday 24 June in a statement following the visit of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrel to Evros that Turkey “continues to undermine security and stability, as well as peace in the Eastern Mediterranean”, causing problems for all its neighbours. “Turkey has continuously violated the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. In Libya, again in clear disregard for international legitimacy, it violates the UN embargo in pursuit of its neo-Osmanian aspirations. It openly ignores Europe’s repeated calls for respect for international legitimacy,” Dendyas said.
Turkey rejected the Cairo Declaration: The “Cairo Initiative” on the Libyan settlement is “not convincing” and insincere, declared Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. After the Cairo Declaration Chairman of Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj urged the GNA troops to “continue their path” towards Sirte. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/libya-gna-forces-press-failed-truce-offer-egypt-200608093125455.html
The recent success of the GNA troops is caused by the participation of Syrian mercenaries, connected with jihadists, who actively were sent in Libya by Turkey to fight against the LNA from may 2019. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the number of fighters from the pro-Turkey Syrian factions today can reach more than 18 000. Generally, the mercenaries are from Al-Mu’tasim Brigade, the Sultan Murad Brigade, the Northern Falcons Brigade, Al-Hamzat and Suleiman Shah. The mercenaries are promised to be paid 1500-2000 $ a month, but the current monthly salary of each fighter is about 400$.
The policy of Turkey in the Libyan region represents destructive neo-Ottoman and pan-islamist strategy, which is based on the neocolonialist ambitions. The possible explanation for the intervention to Libya is the instability in Turkey itself and the Erdogan’s loss of popularity (the support of AKP party came from 33.9 in February 2020 to 30.7 in May 2020 according to Metropol). The Turkish president uses the Islamic narrative (in Libya as the war on side of the GNA, in Turkey – the initiative to convert Hagia Sophia back into Mosque) for the legitimation of his power. İbrahim Karagül , the columnist in the mainstream Yeni Şafak media of Turkish Republic, openly writes that “Turkey will never withdraw from Libya. It will not give up before achieving its aim” (https://www.yenisafak.com/en/columns/ibrahimkaragul/as-angry-masses-hit-western-capitals-we-bid-farewell-to-the-world-we-know-the-fight-in-us-europe-is-not-about-racism-its-the-end-of-the-road-for-the-enslaving-western-order-turkey-is-now-a-super-power-its-words-carry-weight-in-libya-the-mediterranean-2047480).
The major pro-Erdogan media spread this neocolonialist agenda about from November 2019 (when GNA signed 2 deals with Erdogan): Libya is seen as a part of the neo-ottoman empire.
Threat for the EU
The negative effect of the neo-ottoman agenda in Libya is the threat of the new migration crisis, which can happen to the EU. In march 2020 Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Tayyip Erdogan, declared, that Turkey will not close the borders for refugees until the EU fulfills its promises to Ankara. Recently Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has noted the surge of a new wave of refugees to Europe amidst the stabilization of the COVID-19 situation. If Turkey responds to this challenge, Europe will face a new migration crisis and its social services will feel the main blow from the new wave of refugees.
The other front of threat is the Libyan costs, the starting point for the trip of migrants to Europe. Nearly 2,000 Turkish-backed Syrian militants that were transported to Libya over the last five months have fled the north African nation for Europe according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
European governments are taking steps to actively counter Turkish policy in Libya: France has already addressed NATO on this issue. French president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump, and more exchanges on the issue are expected in the coming weeks.
In order to protect European interests, it is important to protect Libya from Turkish expansion and to prevent Erdogan from gaining control over the country’s assets.