DiplomacyIR & Politics

Why Not Diplomacy? Case of Libyan Civil War

After the death of Moammar Khadhafi in 2011, Libya was dragged into Civil War. After that, the election held in 2014 was the breaking point of the Libyan Civil War. As a result of the polemical election, two different governments occurred in Libya. The parties of this conflict were: the House of Representative’s government, aka the Tobruk government and the rival Government of National Accord, based in the capital city, Tripoli. Since 2014, the second Libyan Civil War has been ongoing. As a result of this uneasy situation, thousands of people have died, several have been wounded and hundreds of thousands have had to migrate.

Libya, recently, is falling apart by two different governments and sadly the country is geographically divided into three. Libya’s western cities, such as Tripoli and Sirte, are controlled by an internationally recognised government led by Mustafa Fayez al-Sarraj who dominates 6 per cent of the country which is backed by the U.N., some E.U. countries, Turkey, Qatar and some other countries like Sudan. In contrast, the eastern parts are controlled by groups linked to Tobruk-based General Khalifa Hafter, who controls 76 per cent of the country. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives is backed by Russia, Egypt, the UAE and France. The size of the army attached to General Khalifa Hafter is an undeniable fact. The Libya Shield Force, also known as the force that cleared ISIS from Libya, is also located alongside Hafter. The Zintan militias, the majority of them, support Government of National Accord and are the other major armed force in Libya. Local tribes also control the mostly desert southern parts of Libya. They also dominate 18 per cent of the country and are in co-operation with Gen. Hafter.

As I have tried to explain above, the situation is quite complicated in Libya. There is an ongoing bloody Civil War, power struggles between parties and chaos in Libya’s territories. What’s worse, it has become a conflict zone for groups of mercenaries who are backed by different countries. The fact that foreign countries are increasingly involved in this conflict and supporting different groups plays a vital role in the continuation of the conflict. The United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, France, Qatar and Italy are also among the countries involved in the situation in Libya. Lately, Turkey is preparing to send troops to Libya. On 2nd October, 2020, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed a bill allowing the government to deploy troops to Libya in order to participate in the civil war. Immediately afterwards, the Libyan National Army’s Twitter account also called on citizens to take up their arms against Turkish soldiers.

Why is Turkey sending troops to Libya?

According to a bill which passed through Parliament, there are four reasons: To take precautions against any threat to Turkey’s national interests; Turkey’s interests in Libya; to take precautions against some risks such as mass migration flux; to ensure humanitarian aid to Libya.

Why Should Turkey Not Send Troops to Libya?

I would like to express, according to my observation, why Turkey should not send troops to Libya. First of all, I would like to highlight that Turkey and Libya are not neighbouring countries. There is no military or terrorist organisation threat from Libya to Turkey. It is not wise for Turkey to enter a conflict on another front without ensuring border security and peace in Syria, where still there is an ongoing civil war. Statistically, Turkey has more than three and half million Syrian refugees in the country. Still, Syria’s stability has not been consummated. Moreover, another wave of migration is expected at the border of Turkey. According to the U.N., a new migration wave could reach two million new refugees.

Next, Turkey, economically, is going through difficult times. Turkey’s gross foreign debt stock amounted to $446.9 billion. This figure is equivalent to more than 61% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. As the battle escalates, Turkey needs to increase the number of troops in Libya, which means waging war will result in a loss of lives and further economic loss.

It seems that Libya will inevitably become an international war zone that will destabilise the whole of North Africa. The Government of National Accord administration is in a tough situation and they demand Turkish troops; air and naval support. In order to provide this, Turkey needs military bases somewhere near the civil war in Libya. As it is understood, Libya’s neighbouring country, Tunisia, seems reluctant to give military bases to Turkey and open its territories. That means that without air and naval support, Turkey cannot fully support the Government of National Accord administration. It is not in Turkey’s national interest to be involved in a dark civil war in an overseas country without air support. Besides this, except Qatar, nearly all Gulf states, including Russia, France and Egypt, support General Hafter. Recently, it is known that Greece has also begun to support it. The American government is not very involved in these activities in Libya at the moment but they have also supported it in a sense by remaining silent. In this case, Turkey is becoming part of the civil war by openly supporting the government that controls 6 per cent of the country which could lead to the breakdown of Turkish co-operation with Russia and the United States and therefore, NATO. Furthermore, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea has become an important issue in recent years. The reason is because of the pipeline project (EastMed) that Egypt-Israel and Greece signed without regard to the maritime border agreement which was signed between Turkey and Libya. It should not be forgotten that, the EastMed would cost more than 6$ billion, which makes it difficult to be funded solely by private investors. Waging war and entering the internal conflict in Libya is not the only way to ensure Turkish permanent gains are achieved under the agreement of maritime boundaries signed with Libya. Turkey also has its rights at the border of its maritime jurisdiction. Rational solutions should be produced instead of actions that will escalate the tension. This issue can be solved with the United Nations. At this moment, diplomacy must be the path to seek peace.  However, Turkey continues to move away from the foreign policy principle of “Peace at Home, Peace in the World”, drawn by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The tension between the USA and Iran started with the shooting down of a U.S. military drone and the capture of oil tankers by Tehran, then continued with the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on 3rd of January, 2020. Itis commonly believed that this will increase the tensions and escalate the new security risks in the region. Turkey better stay out of any war which is outside its territorial range and focus on regional developments.

As a result, being a global or regional power does not mean bringing peace through war. It means ensuring peace through diplomacy and all its elements and making it permanent. Being a global or regional power means it is imperative to develop good relations with neighbouring countries and an ability to establish advantageous geopolitical balances which are vital to enabling the use of soft power for global purposes with experienced and capable diplomatic infrastructures. It is essential to have control of space, land, sea and air transport routes. Principals must start to create worldwide economic development. It is critical to increase energy and strategic raw material production capacities. To actualise these, Turkey must go back to its roots and re-orbit the principle of “Peace at Home, Peace in the World”. Furthermore, “Unless a nation’s citizens are in danger, war is a crime”.

This article was originally published on https://moderndiplomacy.eu

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Berk Can Kozan

He achieved his BA Degree from the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus and obtained his MA degree from University of Pécs in Hungary. His main research fields concern on nuclear deterrence, international security and foreign policy issues, international relations’ theories, and internal/external affairs of Turkey. Currently, he is a third year PhD student at the National University of Public Service in Hungary.
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