Turkey seeking domination over Eastern Mediterranean through Libya

By Abdallah Samir

Recently LNA Military Information Division has announced  “there is confirmed information that Turkey uses Kurdish prisoners and sends them to Libya for “security purposes” in exchange for granting amnesty. In Libya, the Kurdish militias are involved in fighting against Haftar’s forces.
This is not the only fact testifying to the intensification of Turkish expansion in Libya. The media has repeatedly reported on the transfer of highly skilled groups of Idlib terrorists to Libya.

To ramp up its superiority in the region, Ankara started using UAVs more frequently. So, on April 6, the Turkish drones carried out an airstrike on LNA facilities in the area of Beni Walid in the outskirts of Tripoli, destroying several fuel trucks. However, the next Turkish attack on April 9 failed due to the quick response of the LNA air defense systems.

The Turkish leadership has long been devising plans of its participation in the Libyan conflict. The ongoing weapons, military hardware supplies to the militants by air and sea that have been cynically hiding behind medical aid to fight Coronavirus in Libya confirm this fact.

Turkey realizes that the military presence in the region will allow it to become a full-fledged member of the Mediterranean agenda. However, the Government of National Accord, led by Fayez Sarraj, continues losing territories, so Turkey tries to speed up the implementation of its purposes.

Initially, Recep Tayyip Erdogan unofficially supported GNA and its struggle against Khalifa Haftar. But after the agreement reached between Ankara and Tripoli in November 2019, Turkey decided to play open.This deal was quite crucial for Erdogan. It implies an agreement on maritime borders in the Mediterranean Sea, ensuring the security of GNA and Fayez Sarraj, as well as military cooperation. Most likely, the political survival of the Tripoli government is considered by Ankara as a cornerstone around a conflict of maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean.

Notably, Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus are very concerned with the Turkish actions in Libya. The point is that the settlement of the issue on the Libyan-Turkish sea border strengthens Turkey’s strategic position in the determination of sovereign rights on offshore gas fields south of Cyprus.

Libya-Turkey agreement on sea borders based on “Blue Motherland” concept

According to the Turkish-Libyan agreement, Turkey’s borders are demarcated through an area that ignores the continental shelves of Cyprus, and the Greek Islands of Rhodes, Kastellorizo, Karpathos, Kasos, as well as the eastern part of Crete.

In fact, Turkey occupies the Mediterranean Sea with its natural resources from its borders to the Libyan ones. This step seriously impedes the agreement between Greece, Israel, and Cyprus on constructing 1,900 km EastMed pipeline, directly connecting East Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.  

The Turkish attitude is alarming not only the EU but also the U.S leadership. Earlier in 2019, Washington lifted the arms embargo on Cyprus and also concluded a treaty on the deployment of military bases, the modernization of F-16 fighter aircrafts, and the purchase of new F-35 jets.

In response, Turkey continued to increase its military power in the region. This is evidenced by the adoption of the Multipurpose Amphibious Assault Ship “Anadolu” for service in 2020 and designing of six Type-214 submarines. At the same time, Ankara set up a military base on the territory of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, where the latest Turkish strikes UAVs “Bayraktar” are deployed.

The use of force for solvation of regional issues pushes Ankara to the ideological justification of its foreign policy, in particular in Libya. Currently, the “Blue Motherland” concept is actively being popularized  within the country. According to its thesis, Turkey historically has a right to pretend to the vast territories of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

The only possible way to hinder Erdogan’s plans to control the entire Eastern Mediterranean is to end the conflict in Libya in favour of the LNA and Khalifa Haftar. Such a scenario could result in centralization of power in Tripoli and weaken the Turkish expansion in the region. The weak moral and mental facilities of GNA fighters against the background of LNA successes, as well as low efficiency of the Turkish artillery and UAVs will contribute much to early defeat of Fayez Sarraj forces.

(Abdallah Samir is Syrian journalist currently based in Damascus. He graduated from School of Arts and Science in Beirut, Lebanon.)

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