Turkey is seeking in various ways to enhance its presence and penetration in Libya by expanding its network of relations with all internal parties, including the components of eastern Libya, while working to maintain its influence in western Libya. This was evident in the secret visit recently carried out by a Turkish security delegation to western Libya, including the capital, Tripoli, and the city of Misrata, which confirms that Ankara is no longer confined to western Libya only, but has expanded towards the east as well, a matter whose indications began with the visit of a delegation from the Libyan parliament to Ankara in mid-December 2021.
That visit opened the door for the return of Turkish companies to the eastern region, especially with discussions about the return of Turkish Airlines to Libya, as well as the reopening of the Turkish consulate in Benghazi.
The Turkish security delegation was keen to meet with Mohamed al-Haddad, Chief of Staff of the forces affiliated with the Government of National Unity (GNU), and Salah Al-Namroush, commander of the Western Military Region, in order to confirm its influence and accommodate any Libyan moves to overthrow Prime Minister Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba. An unannounced meeting was held between Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh and High Council of State Chairman Khaled al-Mishri in the Kingdom of Morocco, which was later joined by Belgacem Haftar, the son of Khalifa Haftar, the former commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA).
Reports indicated that the goal of this tripartite meeting was mainly to plan to remove Dabaiba from the premiership, raising the concern of Turkey, which is seeking to ensure the continuation of its ally.
The visit of the Turkish security delegation to Libya also reflected Ankara’s concern over the recent moves that produced the signs of new internal alliances, most notably the recent consensus between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, which may explain the meeting of the Turkish delegation with Bashagha in Misrata.
Perhaps the most prominent results of that visit were the departure of 300 foreign mercenaries from eastern Libya based on recent agreements with the United Nations and adherence to the principle of reciprocity, as a Turkish military cargo plane headed from the Mürted base in Ankara towards Misrata to transport foreign mercenaries.
The Turkish security delegation was also keen to coordinate with Ankara’s allies in western Libya regarding security arrangements there in light of the new data, especially due to the presence of sleeper cells affiliated with ISIS in the region, which explains the tripartite meeting held by the Turkish delegation with officials from Western Libya, in addition to an Italian security delegation, to enhance security and logistical coordination, as well as try to control the activity of armed militias in Tripoli after recent weeks witnessed the arrival of military units to Tripoli from Misurata to control the movements of some militias in the capital.
This raised Ankara’s concern about the possibility of armed confrontations between the various militias in western Libya, threatening its interests, especially after the Libyan Presidential Council dismissed the commander of the Tripoli Military District, Major General Abdul Basit Marwan, and appointed Major General Abdul Qader Mansour Saad Khalifa instead. In addition, the Presidential Council mobilized militias from several cities in western Libya to the capital.
The visit of the Turkish security delegation to western Libya witnessed the discussion of the file of unifying the military institution in Libya, as it is a major determinant in ensuring the completion of the election process, as well as the restructuring of Libyan civil aviation. The General Directorate of Civil Aviation in Turkey announced that it will start during the coming period to restructure the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority, as well as expand the trainings previously provided by Ankara to the authority’s employees related to airports, aviation security and ramp control, with a focus this year on technologies, especially security, based on the memorandum of understanding signed in Istanbul in November 2021, which involves cooperation in the areas of technical infrastructure and strengthening training, as well as the implementation of civil aviation development plans in Libya. This reflects the growing Turkish involvement in the areas of Libyan infrastructure, including those related to civil aviation, which reinforces Turkey’s keenness to enhance its economic role in Libya, especially in the event that its forces and the Syrian mercenaries loyal to it leave in the future.