The security deal and maritime borders agreement signed between Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the Presidency Council of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan triggered an outcry among the Libyan public. Libyan political actors decried the agreements as a flagrant surrender of Libyan will to a foreign power, and tantamount to grand treason. The agreements are tangible proof of how the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood in Libya is serving as the instrument to promote neo-Ottoman sway over Libyan resources and to facilitate the realisation of Ankara’s expansionist ambitions in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
When announcing the security agreement with Turkey last Wednesday, 27 November, GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga said that it had to do with fighting terrorism and illegal migration. That narrative was exposed for the lie it was by the Turkish president himself, who announced Saturday that his country had signed two memorandums of understanding with Libya, the first on military and security cooperation and the second regarding sovereignty over maritime zones in order to protect respective rights under international law. Bloomberg news cited Erdogan as saying that the Turkish parliament would ratify the agreement over the maritime boundaries in the coming days, strengthening Turkish influence in the Mediterranean.
GRAND TREASON: The Libyan House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Committee released a statement describing the agreements between Sarraj and the Turkish regime as “grand treason”. “The purpose of that spurious agreement is to supply the militias and terrorist organisations under the GNA with drones, weapons, ammunition and Turkish military experts in flagrant defiance of UN Security Council resolutions and within full view of the UN Support Mission in Libya.”
Describing the Turkish regime as “an enemy and aggressor against the Libyan people and a backer of terrorist groups and militias,” the House of Representatives condemned the alliance that Al-Sarraj and his “unconstitutional” Presidency Council struck with the Turkish regime as “a threat to Libyan and Arab national security, and a threat to peace and security in the Mediterranean in general”.
The statement added: “Signing an agreement of this nature allows the Turkish regime, which sponsors terrorism, the militias and anarchy, to use our airspace and enter our regional waters without having to ask permission from Libya, and to build military bases.”
The statement stressed that the parliament and its subsidiary bodies, including the General Command of the Libyan National Army, would not stand by idly “as it watches a new episode in the conspiracy between the Erdogan regime and the Presidency Council which have allied with the militias and terrorist organisations against the security, safety and sovereignty of the state”.
The Libyan House of Representatives, the only popularly elected governing body in Libya, regards Al-Sarraj’s signature to any agreement with a foreign power as invalid and a violation of the jurisdiction of the House. Under Article 17 of the Constitutional Declaration remaining in effect, the House of Representatives is the sole body entitled to approve and ratify international agreements and treaties. Also, under Article 14 of the Skhirat Agreement, the Presidency Council is not empowered to conclude international agreements and treaties. The Libyan parliament, in its statement, called on the UN Security Council, the UN secretary general and the UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committee to undertake their responsibilities to halt the “dangerous escalation”.
In like manner, the eastern based Libyan government formed by the elected parliament denounced the Tripoli-Ankara agreements as a “cover” Al-Sarraj has provided to “facilitate Erdogan’s colonialist designs by giving him a foothold in Libya”. It added that the purpose was also to obstruct the efforts of the LNA to uproot terrorism and militias from Tripoli.
“The interim government affirms its complete and absolute rejection of these illegal agreements, which were concluded by persons unauthorised to do so under the provisions of Libyan law and judicial rulings,” the government statement said. It called on the international community and the UN envoy to Libya to investigate Turkey’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions through its provision of weapons to the “unconstitutional” GNA. It stressed that these weapons are then channelled into the hands of terrorists, thereby threatening international peace and security.
EMBROILING LIBYA IN EAST MEDITERRANEAN DISPUTES: By concluding this maritime and security agreements, Al-Sarraj is trying to embroil Libya in regional and international disputes, according to Libyan political analyst Jamal Shalouf. The only party that will benefit from this is Turkey whose neo-Ottoman colonialist ambitions target the entire Arab region. In remarks to Al-Ahram Weekly, Shalouf said, “to understand this dilemma one only has to read ‘Libya, Turkey’s neighbour in the Mediterranean’ by the Turkish rear admiral Cihat Yayci which exposes Turkey’s scheme to seize control of the eastern Mediterranean gas fields, which the author estimates are worth more than $3 trillion, and to prevent Greece and Greek Cyprus from sharing these resources with Egypt. It also threatens Italian and Maltese interests.”
Shalouf fears that legal disputes between these countries could flare into a military confrontation and that Libya could be dragged into it because of Al-Sarraj’s folly. He is also mystified by the silence with which this development has been greeted by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) which had forced the Sarraj government on Libya following the 2015 Skhirat Agreement. Shalouf urged the Libyan parliament to form a specialised legal team to study ways to enable Libya to avoid any legal consequences stemming from Al-Sarraj’s signing of the agreements. He also appealed to the international community to act as quickly as possible “to stop Al-Sarraj from toying with Libya’s fate, to withdraw its recognition of him, and to bar those fools from representing Libya internationally and keep them from signing any international agreement and spending the Libyan people’s money on their extremely risky heresies”.
TURKISH AMBITIONS: In the opinion of Libyan politician Nassif Al-Ferjani, Turkey’s Erdogan is bent on harming Egypt’s interests in revenge for Egypt’s having obstructed his neo-Ottoman dreams by ousting his Muslim Brotherhood proxies from power in 2013. “This is why Turkey is trying to seize control of the point close to the Egyptian coast,” Al-Ferjani told the Weekly. He points to evidence of this in Yeni Safak, a Turkish daily close to Erdogan’s ruling party, which mentioned Al-Burdi in its reading of the maritime boundary agreement with Al-Sarraj. “Al-Burdi is the closest coastal point to Egypt. It is located only 23 kilometres from Sallum. In 2009, Al-Burdi Hotel was opened. It was a Turkish funded project overseen by Ali Al-Sallabi, a Libyan Muslim Brotherhood figure, under the auspices of the Libya Al-Ghad (Libya of Tomorrow) Project. This was at the time when Al-Sallabi had struck up a friendship with Gaddafi’s son, Seif Al-Islam. The Turkish hotel had to cease operations and shut down when Turkey’s destructive role in Libya since February 2011 became increasingly apparent.”
Turkey has been cited as the most blatant violator of the UN Security Council’s arms embargo to Libya. It has actively supported Al-Sarraj’s government and the terrorist organisations and militias allied with it with money and heavy weaponry. Since the LNA launched Operation Flood of Dignity to liberate Tripoli from the terrorist organisations and militias that have held it hostage, the LNA has downed more than 30 Turkish drones and destroyed six Turkish military operation rooms in Tripoli, Misrata and Zuwara, according to multiple military communiques. On 18 November, LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mismari announced that LNA air forces had struck 19 Turkish tanks that had been unloaded from the Turkish civilian freighter Kosavak Rost at Misrata’s Iron and Steel Port.
Ankara publicly acknowledged its support for terrorist organisations and militias in Libya when Erdogan said that he was ready to sacrifice all his country’s resources to stop the LNA from liberating Tripoli.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 5 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.