Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 September 2020

Qatar extends Libyan influence on back of Turkish financial woe

Turkish economic downturn hands Doha role in building Libya militias

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, right, holds talks with the GNA Undersecretary of Defence Salahedin Al Namroush, centre, and Qatari Defence Minister Khalid Al Attiyah in Tripoli on August 17, 2020. Turkish Defence Ministry via Reuters
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, right, holds talks with the GNA Undersecretary of Defence Salahedin Al Namroush, centre, and Qatari Defence Minister Khalid Al Attiyah in Tripoli on August 17, 2020. Turkish Defence Ministry via Reuters

Qatar is formalising its alliance with Turkey through an escalating direct intervention in Libya in which it has sent military advisers to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

A three-way military agreement between the GNA, Turkey and Qatar agreed to this week is expected to strengthen the militias that Tripoli has employed to defend it.

Turkey has been providing the GNA with weapons, troops, experts and Syrian mercenaries it has trained, in a move broadly condemned by the international community.

Its interference in the country’s civil war led the EU to launch Operation Irini, a maritime mission that has been patrolling the Mediterranean to stop shiploads of weapons reaching Libya’s shores.

The Egyptian government warned on Wednesday that the deal between Doha, Ankara and Tripoli includes a Turkish naval base at the port in Misurata, a town run by militias supplied by Turkey.

The deal was announced on Monday as Hulusi Akar, the Turkish Defence Minister, and his Qatari equivalent Khalid Al Attiyah spoke in Tripoli.

After reaching military stalemate in Libya the Turks are trying to do capacity building

Experts believe that with a weakened economy, Ankara is relying on Qatari funds to “expand its footprint” in Tripoli.

“After reaching military stalemate in Libya, the Turks are trying to do capacity building and because they are struggling economically, the Qataris are stepping in saying they want to contribute,” one defence expert said.

Turkey uses foreign adventurism as lightning rod

The link between Ankara’s poor financial position and Doha’s money was also emphasised by Fadi Hakura, the Turkey specialist for international think tank Chatham House.

“Turkey is trying to solidify its relationship with Qatar as the Turkish lira is very weak and Qatar has provided $15 billion (Dh55.1bn) in liquidity for it,” Mr Hakura said.

“There’s also a direct connection between sputtering Turkish economy and President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's greater adventurism in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

He said Mr Erdogan wanted to project himself “as an indispensable power in the region” and was keen to resurrect the promise that Libya once held for Turkish trade.

A decade ago, Mr Erdogan signed $16bn in construction contracts with former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Another Libya analyst said that the military agreement showed the Turks were determined to remain a presence in the region.

“The bottom line is that Turkey is trying to consolidate what it has achieved over the last few months, which is a pretty solid presence on the southern side of the Mediterranean,” said Tobias Borck of the Royal United Services Institute.

“But this is consolidation rather than expansion.”

Mr Borck said Turkey and Qatar had been “very close” over the past decade.

Updated: August 20, 2020 01:05 AM

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