Egypt and allies seek to confront Turkish involvement in Libya

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Egypt flag waving with helicopter in background 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)
Egypt is concerned by Turkey’s attempts to meddle in Libya after Ankara sought out an agreement between the two countries at sea and has hinted it may send troops to Tripoli.

Libya has been in a brutal civil war since 2011 and is divided between a government in Tripoli and a western Libya government that backs Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army. Haftar is seeking to oust the Tripoli Government of the National Accord (GNA) from the capital, but Turkey appears ready to swoop in and either send troops or at least grab some economic resources off the coast at the expense of Libya.

Turkey is now speaking with Russia in order to act as a player in Libya. Italy’s foreign minister says that Italy might hold talks with Turkey and Russia as well about dealing with the Libya conflict. Libya’s neighbors Tunisia and Egypt are not included. Now there are rumors of potential conflict in the Mediterranean, as Turkey pushes forward with economic claims off the coast of Cyprus. Turkey sent drones to northern Cyprus and harassed an Israeli scientific research ship, and it looks like the US might end an arms embargo on Cyprus, leading to more Turkish threats.

Egypt has reached out to the UN after Turkey and Libya’s weakened Tripoli government signed a deal demarcating their Mediterranean boundaries. Greece and Cyprus were not included, nor were members of the LNA in Libya, which actually controls the coastline across from Turkey that Tripoli sought to demarcate.

Greece is concerned, sending diplomats to discuss the issue with Gulf states and other sympathetic ears. It knows that Turkey wants to send troops to Libya, to give it a foothold that will be difficult to reduce. The troops are likely part of a larger deal whereby Libya’s Tripoli government gave away sea rights so that it can get diplomatic and military support from Turkey. The goal will be a long-term Turkish role. Turkey has bases in Qatar and Somalia and sought to lease an island in Sudan. Turkey wants a huge swath of the Mediterranean, and having forces in Libya gives it an excuse to patrol back and forth.

Turkey is seeking to talk to Moscow with a high-level delegation in coming weeks. That would mean Russia and Turkey could sign a deal on Libya, as they did on northern Syria, with Russia becoming a guarantor of how things develop in Syria. Russia ostensibly had worked with the LNA in the past, but it wants to be a broker of various conflicts, filling the vacuum left by the US and Europe.

Egypt’s message in Egyptian media is that the Tripoli government it called “Al-Wafeq” violates UN agreements. Cairo claims Tripoli is run by militias and sees its government as being eroded by the Muslim Brotherhood, leading to instability and chaos. Egypt’s leadership is also hostile to the Brotherhood.



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