The Turkish-Libyan relations are currently witnessing an escalation from both sides regarding the nature of their bilateral relations and the pattern ruling many Libyan-Turkish foreign and internal issues.
These tensions, however, have also witnessed a state of an unprecedented escalation by the Libyan National Army (LNA), announced by its spokesperson, colonel Ahmed al-Mismari.
This escalation by the Libyan army is not new, but is the extension of an old series of tensions.
The Turkish regime and its allies, namely Qatar and Iran, provoked the LNA by sending dozens armored vehicles to terrorist militias in Libya.
The vehicles arrived in Tripoli on 18 May aboard the Moldovan-flagged roll-on, roll-off vessel Amazon Giurgiulesti, which had sailed from the Turkish port of Samsun on 9 May. Some 20 Turkish-built Kirpi II 4×4 armored personnel carriers and several Vuran vehicles were offloaded.
These shipments of arms negatively affect the operations of the national army within an operation that was announced in April 2018 to liberate Tripoli from terrorist groups under the title “Operation Dignity.”
The Libyan Obsever reports that Al-Mismari has claimed that boats carrying weapons to the “terrorist groups in Tripoli” are leaving from Turkey via Malta to the shores of Tripoli.
He added that there are direct flights from Turkey to Misrata, transporting militants from the Nasra Front in Syria, especially after the increase in the number of foreign fighters on the internal Libyan arena, evidenced by the arrest of Portuguese pilots in June 2016, and in May 2019.
In addition, since September 2015, three Turkish ships have been arrested by the Greek authorities and the Libyan National Army, as on December 17, 2018, the Libyan authorities seized five large arms, ammunition and cargo ships from the port of Mersin. According to the Libyan army, the number of ammunition in these two shipments was 4.2 million bullets, enough to kill about 80% of the Libyan people, in addition to thousands of pistols and rifles.
Also in January 2018, Greek authorities have seized a Tanzanian-flagged ship heading for Libya and carrying materials used to make explosives, the coastguard said on Wednesday.
The vessel was detected sailing near the Greek island of Crete on Saturday. Authorities found 29 containers carrying materials including ammonium nitrate, non-electric detonators and 11 empty liquefied petroleum gas tanks.
“The materials were headed to Libya,” Rear Admiral Ioannis Argiriou told reporters. He said the material could be used “for all sorts of work, from work in quarries to making bombs and acts of terrorism”.
European Union and United Nations-imposed arms embargoes have prohibited the sale, supply or transfer of arms to Libya since 2011.
The coastguard said a preliminary investigation found the captain had been ordered by the vessel’s owner to sail to the Libyan city of Misrata to unload and deliver the entire cargo.
Evidence of the Turkish role in facilitating the flow of money out of Libya is to be found in a document published by WikiLeaks in 2016. The document in question is an email, dated 24 August 2013, from Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, who was once emir of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
When he wrote the email, he was serving as commander of the Libyan Military Council. The subject was a request to the recipient to facilitate the transfer of a large sum of money that Belhaj had acquired as his share of the booty seized from Gaddafi’s Bab Al-Aziziya compound to a Turkish government bank so that he could subsequently invest it in Turkey. He offers a 25 per cent commission of the total sum ($15 million) in exchange for the service.
The document was one of thousands of emails, leaked from the AKP’s Website on 20 July 2016, that triggered widespread controversy in Turkey.
The following day, Turkey’s Internet watchdog said it had taken an “administrative measure” against the WikiLeaks Website, meaning it blocked it.
It is noteworthy that these illegal practices by Turkey have not received condemnation from the international community or by the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salama, which will negatively affect the prolongation of the internal conflict between the two sides; it will also impede the UN efforts to achieve a political settlement of the Libyan crisis.
On the background of the Turkish interventions in the internal Libyan arena, the Libyan National Army announced several measures taken against the Turkish illegal practices through many policies, including targeting all Turkish ships inside the Libyan territorial waters, cutting all commercial air flights to Libyan military areas, rather than halting dealings with Turkish companies there.
There escalations are believed that they will greatly affect the motives, interests and mechanisms of Ankara towards Tripoli; Ankara intends to keep pace with the intensive regional and international moves towards Libya in the recent period and to limit its potential negative repercussions on Turkish influence, particularly by Egypt, which is more present and closer to the Libyan state since the beginning of declaring a war against terrorism, which Ankara supports in the first place.
In addition, Ankara aims to acquire as much reconstruction projects as possible in Libya, especially since the Libyan market is one of Turkey’s biggest markets for economic projects, which is expressed by the presence of more than 120 Turkish companies operating in Libyan territory.
Egypt and its Gulf allies, France, Russia and the United States support the Libyan National Army led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk. On the other hand, Turkey and Qatar support Hafar’s rivals represented in the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
This disagreement in the map of Turkish relations was reflected in the course of its movement not only in Libya, but in several regions in the Arab, regional and international region. The Libyan situation was clearly demonstrated at the
alermo Conference in Italy in November 2018. Turkey and Qatar were excluded from participation. Which was attended by the Italian Prime Minister, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and European Council President Donald Tusk.
On the other hand, this mutual escalation by Turkey and Libya will have repercussions on many countries in light of the international and regional involvement in the Libyan crisis, which will have implications on regional stability.