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Turkey - Libya Relations

Turkey and Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) are discussing possible Turkish use of two military bases in the North African country, a Turkish source said on Monday, with a view to a lasting Turkish presence in the south Mediterranean. No final decisions have been made over possible Turkish military use of the Misrata naval base and the al-Watiya air base, which was recaptured by the Turkish-backed GNA. A more permanent air and naval presence in Libya could reinforce Turkey’s growing influence in the region, including in Syria, and boost its claims to offshore oil and gas resources.

Turkey declared its support for the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The UN-recognized government of Libya asked Turkey to send its troops into the long-divided country, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 25 December 2019. A motion to deploy them will be submitted to the Turkish parliament after recess. Turkish troops will back the government of Fayez al-Serraj, which is based in the Libyan capital Tripoli, the Turkish president said in a speech to the ruling AK Party. Serraj’s Government of National Accord is challenged by General Khalifa Haftar, who has a stronghold in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The announcement comes after Erdogan’s visit to Tunisia, in which he said that he and President Kais Saied had agreed to launch a joint military mission to back Libya’s Serraj. The following day, the Turkish president said a motion to authorize the international deployment will be submitted to the Turkish parliament once it comes back from the recess in January 2020. The authorization may be passed as soon as January 8 or 9, 2020. Libya remains deeply fractured since the 2011 NATO intervention that backed militants trying to topple long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi. The uprising succeeded and cost the strongman his life, but left the country divided between various armed groups with various criminal and ideological agendas. Haftar has made his name by fighting Islamist forces and has close ties with many leading governments, despite opposing the UN-backed government.

The current agreement would not allow Turkish combatant forces to go to Libya. It would however allow military and police exchanges for training purposes and closer cooperation in fields including intelligence, counter-terrorism and defence exports. While the GNA is desperate to repel Haftar's forces from the outskirts of Tripoli, analysts say Ankara has other geopolitical interests.

Turkey may send the GNA air defence systems, including drone-jamming technology, alongside advisers and more modern drones. Such support could "rebalance forces" on a battlefield where Wagner has reportedly deployed anti-drone systems that have brought down an American drone and an Italian one. But Ankara was seen as unlikely to deploy troops or send fighter jets to carry out strikes. Turkey does not have an air base close enough to Libya to carry out strikes discreetly, as Delalande said the UAE does from Egypt. Nonetheless, Turkish support for the GNA could be a "game-changer, depending on the form of military aid.

Turkey's alignment with the GNA is dictated by a mix of factors both geopolitical and ideological. Turkey is primarily interested in countering the influence of its regional rivals the UAE and Egypt, who support Haftar and oppose Islamist movements close to Ankara. But it also has economic and strategic interests in supporting the GNA. Tripoli signed a maritime agreement with Ankara, expanding Turkey's claims over a large area of the Mediterranean. The discovery in recent years of vast gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has put Turkey at odds with littoral states Greece, Egypt, Israel and Cyprus. While the European Union has threatened Ankara with sanctions for illegally drilling off the coast of Cyprus, Turkey hopes its accord with Tripoli will help legitimate its exploration.

Turkey has deep rooted relations with the Libyan people. Due to its historical and cultural bonds, Turkey attaches importance to the security and welfare of the Libyan people. Turkey has a long history of involvement in Libya. In accordance with the treaty signed at Lausanne in October 1912, the Ottoman Sultan issued a decree granting independence to Tripolitania and Cyrenaica while Italy simultaneously announced its formal annexation of those territories.

From the time when Saladin displaced the Fatimids in 1171 until the Ottoman occupation in 1517, Egypt was ruled by a succession of Mamluk dynasties that claimed suzerainty over Cyrenaica but exercised little more than nominal political control there. Throughout the sixteenth century, Hapsburg Spain and the Ottoman Turks were pitted in a struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean. Out of fear of the European takeover in Tripoli, in 1835 the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II sent Turkish troops, ostensibly to put down the numerous rebellions against the pasha and to restore order.

The Libyan state was founded on December 24, 1951, with diplomatic relations be established immediately after the recognition by Turkey has regained some momentum. The first Turkish ambassador to Libya, Celal Karasapan, started his duty on 4 September 1953.

Paralleling the swift and fundamental domestic transformations Qadhafi initiated upon coming to power in 1969 were equally radical and controversial foreign policy changes. In mid- 1975, Libya and Turkey concluded several cooperative agreements and decided to establish a joint ministerial committee. Plans were formulated to increase the number of Turkish workers in Libya from 6,000 to 60,000 by the end of 1976. The wave of expulsions of foreign workers in the fall of 1985, was evidently politically motivated as some 130,000 people — primarily Egyptians, Tunisians, and Mauritanians — were expelled. Some 50,000 Turkish workers remained in Libya, however, alongside 15,000 workers from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) despite the obvious closeness of those two countries to the West generally and the United States in particular.

Qadhafi declared his decision to abolish Libya's WMD program right after the capture of Saddam Hussein. Turkey welcomed the positive steps taken in the early years of the 21st Century by Libya in a number of areas, especially the commitment to eliminate WMD programs. Turkey believed other states should encourage the GOL to continue on the path of integration with the international community. In 2005 the Turkish Customs Inspection Board launched an investigation into the role of Turkish companies in the trafficking of nuclear parts, and released a report on 29 November 2005. According to the report, Turkish companies sent `container supports, ring magnets, stators, and frequency converters' to Libya. Centrifuge motors sent to Libya by Turkish companies had been seized under the framework of Libya's nuclear program, and that they can be used in manufacturing enough enriched uranium to make seven nuclear weapons every year.

Turkey welcomed the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement on 17 December 2015, which offers a clear framework for long-lasting peace and stability in Libya. Mr. Çavusoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, took part at the signing ceremony held in Skhirat, Morocco. Turkey supports the Government of National Accord in its endeavors to effectively implement the Libyan Political Agreement.

Mr. Sarraj, President of Libya Presidency Council visited Turkey twice in 2018 and made fruitful contacts with President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr. Çavusoglu paid an official visit to Tripoli on 22 December 2018 and expressed Turkey’s support to the UN-led political process and to the unity and territorial integrity of Libya. Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar visited Libya on 5 November 2018. At these meetings, issues of military cooperation between Turkey and Libya were discussed. The President of the Libyan State Council Halid Al-Mesri visited Turkey on 13 December 2018 upon the invitation of the President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and the Minister of Internal Affairs of Libya Fethi Basaga on 17-20 December 2018 upon the invitation of the Minister of Interior.

Turkey engaged directly with Libyans from all regions and encourages them to be constructive and to work collectively for successfully achieving reconciliation as soon as possible. Maintaining close cooperation with the Libyan authorities, Turkey continued assisting Libya in various fields in coordination with the Government of National Accord. Turkey will also continue advocating political solution for a democratic, stable and prosperous Libya.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:06:04 ZULU