Turkish lawmakers approved a motion on Thursday allowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to send soldiers to Libya to support the government in Tripoli, a move that could worsen the fratricidal conflict that is tearing the country apart.
During an extraordinary parliamentary session, 325 deputies voted for and 184 against this text which gives the Turkish army a mandate to intervene in Libya, valid for one year, said the president of the Turkish National Assembly Mustafa Sentop.
It remains to be seen now whether President Erdogan, who has to decide, will indeed send troops to this country separated from Turkey by the Mediterranean, or whether military support will take another form, such as sending “advisers” .
The Turkish government says it is acting in response to a call for help from the Government of National Union (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, faced with an offensive by the strongman of eastern Libya, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is trying to take Tripoli.
Sending Turkish troops to Libya could worsen the fratricidal conflicts that have torn that country apart since the fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime in 2011, fueled by regional powers.
Libya has indeed become the theater of a power struggle between two camps: on the one hand, Turkey and Qatar, which support the GNA, recognized by the UN; on the other, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, who support Haftar.
Shortly after the vote, the Turkish presidency announced that Erdogan had discussed Libya with his American counterpart Donald Trump, without giving details.
The adoption of the motion “is an important step to ensure peace and stability in Libya and defend our interests in North Africa and the Mediterranean”, said Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin after the vote .
The Turkish parliament’s vote on Thursday is part of a rapprochement between Ankara and the GNA, illustrated by an agreement on military and security cooperation and a controversial maritime delimitation agreement signed at the end of November. Erdogan and Sarraj.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Wednesday that the Turkish military was « ready » but stressed that the nature and extent of the deployment would be determined by « ground developments ».
Oktay added that Ankara hoped the adoption of the text on Thursday would have a deterrent effect. « After the vote, if the other side (pro-Haftar) changes its attitude and says We withdraw, we stop the offensive, so why go there? »
The main opposition parties voted against the text adopted on Thursday, arguing that an intervention in Libya could destabilize the region and drag Turkey, which has lost dozens of soldiers in Syria, into a new quagmire.
In addition to the difficulties inherent in deploying troops in a country that is not on the border, unlike in Syria where Ankara currently operates, a deployment in Libya would be accompanied by a risk of incident with Russia.
Even if Moscow denies it, the UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, and president Erdogan affirm that Russian mercenaries are engaged at the sides of the forces of Haftar which try since April to seize Tripoli.
President Vladimir Putin is due to travel to Turkey on Wednesday to inaugurate a gas pipeline with his Turkish counterpart, an opportunity for the two leaders to speak on the Libyan issue.
Turkey’s support for Sarraj is part of Ankara’s growing claim in the eastern Mediterranean, the scene of a race to drill for hydrocarbons with the discovery of significant deposits in recent years.
Due to the maritime agreement concluded in November which considerably extends its continental shelf, Turkey needs more than ever the GNA to assert its claims in the eastern Mediterranean where several countries like Greece, Cyprus and Egypt are united Turkish initiatives.
The vote in the Turkish parliament was originally scheduled for next week but the government has decided to move it forward due to the difficulties encountered by the GNA in Tripoli, where the offensive by pro-Haftar forces has intensified.
Cairo, which supports Haftar, « firmly » condemned the vote in the Turkish parliament on Thursday, saying that Turkish intervention « would have a negative impact on the stability of the Mediterranean ».