Friday, May 29, 2020

There are about 25 billion reasons for Turkish interest in Libya

Libya is on the verge of a new surge in armed confrontation between the two main internal forces – the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Faiz Saraj and the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Marshal Khalifa Haftar. 

There are external forces behind the GNA and LNA, therefore, as the Jordanian publication Al Bawaba notes today, May 28, in this region of North Africa, in fact, a new proxy war has unfolded in the territory of the Greater Middle East.

This war has its own geo-economic context, there are business interests of regional powers. Oil companies and their state backers see huge potential in Libya’s untapped natural resources. In addition, expressed interest in participating in future infrastructure projects in Libyan territory, when peace is established here and the local government will have money. 

In this regard, analysts explain Turkey’s most active intervention in the “Libyan dossier”, among other things, by the fact that Ankara in such a peculiar way “exchanges support for the PNS Sarajah for the recognition of its energy claims in the Eastern Mediterranean and the promise of fulfilling obligations estimated at $ 25 billion frozen Turkish construction contracts in the country,” notes Al Bawaba.

Tim Eaton, senior fellow at Chatham House, a UK think tank, said recent events have shown “how much Turkish support for the GNA has changed the balance of power in the field.” The rather high-profile recent military successes of formations loyal to Saraju with strong Turkish support in the form of militants and arms deliveries transferred from Syria to Libya allowed the GNA to focus on ousting Haftar troops from the remaining LNA strongholds in western Libya, for example, such as Tarhuna.

However, Eaton continues, Saraj’s dependence on Turkish military support can be problematic in the long run, fueling historical anti-Turkish sentiment in the Arab world and “further reinforcing the view that the PNS is solely dependent on external support.”

In turn, Federico Borsari, an expert on the Middle East and North Africa at the Italian Institute for International Policy Studies (ISPI), believes that Turkey’s more active participation in Libya could stimulate further military obligations from Ankara’s foreign competitors, which portends a dangerous escalation of the armed conflict. According to him, in the current situation of the established relative balance of power between the LNA and the GNA, one of the parties does not have to expect a cardinal military advantage in their favor. 

At the same time, a force majeure may happen in a torn apart civil war in a North African country, for example, in the form of a deepening humanitarian crisis in the local health system against the backdrop of the global pandemic of the coronavirus Covid-19. According to Barsari, Covid-19 may be the “structural converter of the game” in Libya.