Turkey is headed to Libya not to fight but to make peace: Column

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin calling the warring parties in Libya to a ceasefire was immediately accepted by the legitimate Tripoli government, while the belligerent Khalifa Haftar administration at first declared that it would not adhere to it.

There were two strange aspects to this. The first was in the call, which we had mentioned in the previous article. The other was concerning Haftar’s reaction. The strangeness in the call for ceasefire is that the two sides fighting in Libya are not at all similar, because it is a situation that emerged with the aggression of one party. The call should in fact have been to the aggressor Haftar, and in the case that he fails to abide by this call, the international community, conscience or law – if there is still such a thing – should have taken action and imposed sanctions.

Despite this, Turkey treated even the aggressor Haftar as an entity and called on him to cease fire, showing that its presence in Libya is certainly not to fight but to uphold law, security and stability of the Libyan people.

The second oddity was Haftar’s announcement that he would not abide by the ceasefire, despite the call made by Russia, which has supported him until now. What did he rely on while doing this? The weapon in his hand does not belong to him. Could he have done more than what was requested by those who put that gun in his hand?

Let us not be quick to judge. He might think for a moment that he can do it alone, but once he comes to his senses, it is impossible for him not to notice that this cannot be sustainable.

It is not possible for Haftar to progress an inch without the UAE’s funding, Russia’s technical support, and France’s PR activity within the EU.

Meanwhile, Turkey seeks nothing but the formation of a political dialogue atmosphere in the region, making it possible to ensure peace and justice for all Libyans and stability for the country, not more bloodshed. If this is provided, it would be a great enough gain for Turkey as well. Turkey does not have its sights set on Libya or another country’s territory; when every country is run by its own people, when every country’s people are free and reach stability, there is nothing about this that will disturb Turkey.

Yet, both Arab and Egyptian media are carrying on an intense propaganda campaign that Turkey is in Libya to wage a war against Arabs. Most seem to be getting their tips from their allies in Turkey, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Whereas, the reality that should immediately strike the CHP and those who are exposed to this propaganda against Turkey in Egypt is: Turkey was the only country that wanted a ceasefire in Libya, nobody else. As a matter of fact, it did this by turning its good relations with Russia into a serious diplomatic opportunity.

If Turkey was intending to fight rather than make peace, it would have considered fighting against Haftar, who has no legitimacy but unfortunately consolidated physical power, and expanded his influence. It is clear that Haftar would have no chance against Turkey in such a war; however, such military success by Turkey would have most likely led to a steep price for the Libyan people.

Yet, Turkey is entering Libyan ground not only with its military power but also with its historical and cultural power, and of course, most importantly, for Libya’s future, it is going there with a vision to safely deliver Libya to the Libyans. There is currently no alternative to this vision and no ethical or political ground to object to this.

Can Libya become a ground of opportunity for Turkey-Egypt relations?

As the campaign in Egyptian media said Turkey is coming to Libya to fight against Egypt, we responded: Turkey is not coming to Libya to fight the people of Libya or any other Muslim-Arab nation. On the contrary, it is coming to stop the war in Libya and, as a matter of fact, it is coming upon a request by the UN-recognized government.

As such, there are more reasons for cooperation between Turkey and Egypt than there are reasons to fight. Setting aside the unsolvable problem with Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi due to his coup and violation of human rights against his people on a daily basis, this dispute between Turkey and Egypt is providing unnecessary opportunities to others and costing both countries and the Muslim world a grave price.

Turkey’s deal with Libya also helped Ankara regain its rights in the Exclusive Economic Zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, which was stolen as a result of Egypt’s deal with Greece. Looking back, we can also ask: Is there any reason preventing a deal with Egypt, similar to the one with Libya? Would such an alliance between Turkey, Egypt and Libya in the East Mediterranean serve to better protect all three countries’ rights?

Who is forcing Egypt to play against Turkey, to make alliances with Greece and Israel rather than with Ankara?

As a result, in the deal between Israel, Southern Cyprus and Greece, Egypt was not even mentioned. Is Egypt’s exclusion from such an alliance that has been established against Turkey not cautionary enough?

I received thousands of messages reacting to this call I made through social media. These messages, both positive and negative, show that the call has reached its goal. Who knows? Perhaps it is time to take this matter more seriously.

By: Yassin Aktay, advisor of the Turkish President. The article was published in Yeni Safak Turkish newspaper on 13 Jan. 2020.