Turkish Defense Minister’s visits to Libya, Sudan, and Somalia

Yasin AktayBy: Yasin Aktay

First of all, we should recall that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan already visited these countries and signed a series of deals and agreements. In fact, reaching such agreements is not that difficult when you make such high-level visits. The extraordinary favor they show to our president and the meaning they attribute to him removes all the barriers in the way of reaching such deals.

Thus, our president’s presence makes this the easiest part of the matter. The difficult part, however, is to sustain these agreements, to sustain the grounds for the deal and to not let the agreed terms remain just in words and on paper. There needs to be intense official and non-official diplomacy to realize those agreements. If this diplomacy doesn’t work or remains slow, it could render all the agreements and gains obsolete. You must recall Erdoğan’s visit to Sudan 11 months ago. The meaning the people of Sudan attributed to this visit proves that Turkey’s proverbial cultural and political depth is not a myth, and this was proven for all the world to see. That visit included the Suakin island near Port-Sudan and it was decided that the island, which was an important station for Hajj caravans during the Ottoman era, would be restored by Turkey and opened for tourism purposes.

The news that TİKA is going to undertake the planning and implementing of this project gave our friends in Sudan and in the region great happiness, while on the other hand, some lost their sleep.

Isn’t this the point? Reassuring friends and putting fear in the hearts of the enemy.

Wherever Turkey goes and becomes influential, it serves nothing but for the peace, unity, and order of that country, so those who are afraid should continue to be so.

On the first stop of these visits, I must say that Akar’s attitude was sincerely and warm-heartedly welcomed by his counterparts in Libya. This attitude makes Turkey very different from all the actors (U.S., UAE, Egypt, France, Russia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Iran) who have been making calculations since the beginning of the revolution. Because all these actors either want the country to be divided, for one group to eliminate the other or for the disagreements to become permanent so that they can control all the resources of Libya.

However, Akar, who have visited both the president of Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj and the President of High State Council Khalid al-Masri and also other military authorities, stressed the necessity of reaching an agreement in unity, solidarity, dialogue, and peace. This attitude is what makes Turkey different, but still, there is a great benefit to reassert this attitude to both sides on certain occasions. As this situation further proves Turkey’s distinction more clearly, Turkey’s arguments also become much more relevant.

Actually, when we consider the latest developments in Libya we can say that Akar’s visit was made at a perfect time. On Monday, there will be a meeting in Palermo, Italy, between the parties in Libya to establish dialogue. All parties will be attending the meeting, including Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Tobruk government and who paralyzed the dialogue process to form a new system on February 17, 2011, with the coups he orchestrated with the support of Egypt and the UAE and thus brought the country to the brink of division.

There are still two parliaments and rival administrations, one in Tobruk and the other in Tripoli, which is called General National Congress. However, both of these governments lack the means and power to facilitate peace, stability, and security in the country, because they don’t have enough legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

Despite this, according to the Libyan Political Agreement which was signed on December 17, 2015, in Morocco’s Skhirat city, the Government of National Accord (GNA) was recognized by the UN Security Council as the only legitimate representative of Libya, however the government lists presented by the council was not approved by the House of Representatives in Tobruk, led by Haftar, and the process was deadlocked. That is why since the GNA’S approval time has passed, its legitimacy and its influence are weak, and its future is uncertain.

To put an end to this uncertainty, elections must be conducted, and for the elections, a dialogue has to be established between the two parties. Of course, they are doing their best to not to establish dialogue. However, the possibility of this dialogue yielding positive outcomes is increasing thanks to this new process started as a result of Italy’s initiative. UN Special Representative Gassan Selame said that the elections could take place in the spring of 2019.

The symbolic meaning is quite deep and the political productivity of Akar and his delegation’s visit in the midst of this process which will determine both these elections and the roadmap for the ensuing dialogues is quite high.

To tell the truth, Akar’s ability to establish dialogue and his sincerity received considerable attention. We had the opportunity to observe this closely both in his contacts in Libya and later in Sudan and Somalia.

I will deal with the other two countries in another article, but I should say this before finishing: Haftar, who has not been receiving the support he expected from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, went to the other support leg, Russia and had a meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu, one day after our visit. We will wait and see what impact this correspondence will have on the conference in Italy.