Alwaght- On Monday, some media reported that Turkish vessels carrying military facilities docked in Tripoli port of Libya. According to the Russian broadcaster RT, a ship named Amazon sailed on May 8 from the Turkish port city of Samsun to the Libyan waters. At the same time, the Government of National Accord of Libya (GNA) said that it received arms and armored vehicles from a foreign country. Earlier, reports emerged about Turkey’s sending military equipment to the Libyan government. On February 7, Fahmi Hussein al-Maghouri, a Libyan customs official, announced that 9 armored vehicles were confiscated in the Khamis Port, 120 kilometers east of the capital Tripoli. Videos published by the media showed in the Tripoli Port a number of BMC Kirpi armored vehicles, a car brand belonging to Turkey.
Earlier, the Libyan officials had talked about recovering arms convoys including 3,000 rifles and 2.5 million bullets in a port close to the capital. The Libyan authorities said that Turkey and Libya agreed to launch a joint probe into the case.
Earlier this month, Mouhanad Yunis, the spokesman to Tripoli-based GNA said that the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj established contacts with its ally Turkey and asked it to provide anything, including military and non-military help, to repel General Khalifa Haftar’s campaign to seize the capital.
The assault on Tripoli, which so far killed over 400, injured thousands, and displaced hundreds of thousands, was launched in early April by Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Haftar, the figure of the previous regime. The aim was to seize the capital and topple the internationally-recognized government there.
What raises questions is the main goals and motivations driving Turkey to intervene in the home Libyan war and developments.
Dragging new regional alliances to Libya war
The rivalry for sway in such strategic regions as the Horn of Africa and the African coasts of the Mediterranean over the past few years has accounted for a large part of the regional powers’ role play, mainly after the Islamic awakening wave that stood base for the uprisings in the Arab world. Libya is one of the countries in the center of focus due to its huge oil reserves and geopolitical position on the Mediterranean coasts. That is what driving the regional and international powers to join the race for influence in the North African nation.
In March 2015, militia forces affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, dubbed Fajr Libya, took control of the capital. They forced the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani to step down and leave the capital and settle in eastern Libya, where General Khalifa Haftar resided and held a military sway. Afterwards, Turkey was accused of collaborating and supporting such terrorist groups as Ansar Al-Sharia and 17 February Martyrs Brigade which coalesced under Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries. Turkey rejected the charges, though in January 2014 word spread about a visit to Turkey of a delegation of Ansar Al-Sharia.
Now with Haftar campaign, which comes with full diplomatic, financial, and military backing of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt against the Brotherhood-affiliated forces, the Libyan developments go into a direction that very well echo Turkey’s heavy loss in Egypt in 2013 as the Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamad Morsi was removed by a military coup apparently bankrolled by Saudi Arabia. If the Brotherhood loss repeats itself in Libya, Turkey will practically lose another game of regional influence. The trip also meddled in Sudan and brought down President Omar al-Bashir, who was an ally to Ankara. Now the trio-supported army controls Sudan, risking evacuation from the strategic Suakin Island Turkey which rented the island in a long-term contract with the al-Bashir government.
Turkish economic investment
Turkey is afraid to lose influence and investment opportunities in Libya. While Turkey supports Tripoli, Arab sides back Tobruk and Haftar loyalists.
The economic drive of the Turkish fear should be taken into account. After all, Turkey invested nearly $100 billion in Libya by 2013. Turkish companies are presently advancing 160 investment projects across Libya.
Figures show that after China, Turkey is the second largest Libyan business partner. The value of trade contracts reportedly reaches $28 billion. Turkish companies export home alliances, clothes, food, medicine, cement and a lot of other products to Libya. Ankara buys worth of $300 million oil, gold, and metals from Libya annually. The Turkish tourism sector also benefits from the partnership with Libya. Some 150,000 to 200,000 Libyan tourists every year visit Turkey, reports suggest.
A relatively large number of Turkish nationals are working in Libya’s oil and mining sectors as technicians and workers. A number of Turkish contractors are active in Libya in animal husbandry, agriculture, food, tourism, and health care sectors.
The escalation of tensions is not in Turkey’s interests. Turkey’s exports to Libya in 2014 were over $2 billion but now it reduced to $1.5 billion.
On December 22 last year, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, talked about the need to speed up the return of Turkish companies to Libya in a variety of sectors like energy and construction.
While the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces a serious economic crisis, marked by rising unemployment and inflation, halt of the Turkish companies in Libya and return of Turkish workers from the African country can compound the hard economic situation for the Turkish government which highly needs to have a prosperous economy to continue political leadership.
Libya burning in the rivals’ fire
The licentious deployment of arms to Libya from various sides made the country immerse in illegal weapons. Some figures note that some 20 million assault rifles now illegally exist in the five-million population country. A large number of the arms are held by the terrorist factions which find Libya a safe haven for their growth.
According to the UN reports, the UAE and Egypt since 2014 supplied Haftar forces with fighter jets, helicopters, and drones.
Stephanie T. Williams, deputy special representative of UN to Libya, in an interview with Bloomberg in early May said that there was a fear of big proxy conflict in Libya. There are worrisome signs that two sides of Libyan confrontation are provided with arms from foreign sources, she continued.