While his deputy examines normalizing relations with Egypt, Turkish FM announces not withdrawing forces from Libya

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Thu, 06 May 2021 - 01:32 GMT

Libyan flag - Wikimedia Commons

Libyan flag - Wikimedia Commons

CAIRO – 6 May 2021: In a joint press conference with German counterpart, Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu stated Thursday that his country had signed with former Government of National Accord (GNA) a defense memorandum of understanding (MoU) in December 2019, and that the withdrawal of Turkish forces will not be in the interest of Libya.

 

Cavusoglu pointed out that foreign forces should not be mixed up with foreign mercenaries saying that his country agrees with Germany on the withdrawal of the latter. He added that no third country shall meddle with agreements signed between two sovereign states, as reported by Russia Today.

 

The deputy of the Turkish foreign minister is presiding over a delegation that is holding talks in Cairo with Egyptian counterpart on May 5-6 to normalize relations.

 

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that these “exploratory discussions” will focus on necessary steps that may lead to the normalization of relations between the two countries at the bilateral level and in the regional context.

 

Relations between both countries were severed in the aftermath of the ouster of late President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 over mass protests. Morsi was member of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood outlawed in Egypt but backed by Turkey.

 

Speaking of Libya, Turkey and the GNA, which was an interim non-elected government formed in 2014 according to Skhirat agreement to pave the way for holding elections by 2017 but failed, signed two MoUs on defense and gas drilling eastern the Mediterranean.

 

At the time of signing, the GNA – counting on militias - was controlling western the country and Sirte in Central Libya. However, a month later the city was restored by the Libyan National Army (LNA), which also recovered Misrata and was advancing towards Tripoli in the west. Yet, Misrata was occupied again later in 2020 by the GNA militias backed by Turkey, which transported 20,000 mercenaries, mainly Syrian but included 2,500 Tunisians and others from African countries, into the North African state. Until present, Turkey has not taken steps to deport those mercenaries with the intention of terminating their presence in Libya. It just deported some over payment issues but substituted them with others later.

 

As for the MoU on gas drilling eastern the Mediterranean, the European Union (EU) has not recognized it with Greece being the most to express uproar over the matter considering the move a violation of its rights. There is already a huge feud among Greece and Turkey over maritime borders as the latter rejects to admit the maritime borders of Greek islands just recognizing the borders of the continental shelf where the mainland lies.

 

The Eastern Mediterranean gas has been a main reason behind many regional disputes involving Turkey, which used to obstruct drilling in Cypriot water under the pretext of preserving the interests of Northern (Turkish) Cypriot, a de facto state in the North that is not recognized by the United Nations. It also carried out in November 2020 a seismic survey in a disputed area with Cyprus and Greece in the Mediterranean using a vessel dubbed Oruc Reis. Turkey had also objected the formation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Organization in the same year. The organization headquartered in Cairo has as members Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.

 

On March 16, power was handed over from the former Libyan presidential council to the new one, and from the GNA to the Government of National Unity (GNU) led by Prime Minister Abdel Hamid AlDabaiba. The new interim government is supposed to pave the way for holding elections on December 24.

 

On March 15, the GNU members and prime minister took the oath of office before the Tobruk-based House of Representatives in the East.

 

The new Chair of the Presidential Council is Mohamed Menfi, and the other two members are Mossa Al-Koni, and Abdullah Al-Lafi. Dabiba-Menfi list received the necessary votes in the ballot held by the UN-fostered Libyan National Dialogue Forum on February 6.

 

The dismantled interim non-elected GNA used to control western Libya and was using militias and mercenaries to hold territories. Simultaneously, central and eastern Libya were under the control of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the authority of the elected House of Representatives and an interim government it had formed. 

 

Unlike the GNA, which was based in Tripoli in the west, the GNU is based in Sirte located in central Libya.  

 

In December, Libyan local media reported that Turkey had transported into Libya HAWK missile batteries and a 3D-Radar, according to Egypt's Youm7.

 

On July 5, several "unknown aircraft" launched nine strikes against Oqba Bin Nafea Airbase located in Al Watiyah controlled by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey. The outcome was the destruction of Hawk air defense systems, and a Koral electronic warfare system as well as the killing of a Turkish commander, and six officers as the operations room they were in was hit.

 

However, Commander of Mobilization at the LNA Khaled al-Mahgoub stated on July 20 that Turkey still uses Oqba bin Nafea airbase in Al Watiyah western the country to bring in military reinforcements.

 

An Egyptian delegation visited earlier in February the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in order to check on the headquarters of the embassy, and to reiterate three requests that are dismantling militias, eliminating foreign military presence in Libya, and deporting foreign mercenaries.

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