When the allies became rivals
Last year, Recep Erdogan started a big game in Libya, the meaning of which is to ensure Turkish control over the eastern Mediterranean. In late November, Turkey signed two Memorandums of Understanding with the Government of Libyan National Unity (PNE) in Tripoli.
The first concerned security issues and military cooperation. In accordance with this document, the PNE expected to receive military equipment and weapons from Erdogan, and even the help of military specialists.
The second was dedicated to limiting jurisdiction at sea. So Ankara and Tripoli were going to protect their rights in the coastal waters of Libya, a significant part of which is controlled today by an alternative government in Tobruk together with the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Khalifa Haftar.
By signing these documents, Recep Erdogan made it clear to the world that he was ready to intervene in the internal Libyan conflict and restore order in the country. President Erdogan saw the Turkish mission in Libya similar to the mission of Russian forces in Syria. The only difference is that Ankara claimed full control of the PNE in Tripoli.
This task was initially difficult to solve, since in the torn African country the interests of almost all the leading world powers converged. The Libyan government (PNE) in Tripoli is supported by Turkey, Qatar, Italy, the USA, Tunisia, and Great Britain. For LNA Haftar, it seems, advocate France, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, China.
This alignment of forces arose in 2014, when Libya almost split into two countries (not counting the small regions in the south controlled by local tribes). Then, as we recall, an acute conflict arose within the Libyan government, which ended with the demarcation. One of the forces remained in Tripoli. The second (the Libyan parliament - the House of Representatives) - has moved to the city of Tobruk in the east of the country.
Very soon, the power of Tobruk with the help of the LNA Marshal (officially - General) Khalifa Haftar spread to most of Libya with its oil fields, gas pipelines, coastal ports. Naturally, the investors of these projects initially showed loyalty to the eastern government of Libya, and then switched to its direct support.
That’s how it came to be, in which even traditional allies (France and Italy, the United States and Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, etc.) were on opposite sides of the Libyan conflict. This confrontation to some extent led to stabilization of the situation.
The feeling of near victory played a cruel joke with Marshal
For years, the parties maintained their positions until Haftar launched a decisive attack on Tripoli last April. At first, it developed very successfully. LNA forces even occupied the suburbs and part of the Libyan capital. Then the sluggish Arab war, familiar to the world, followed, with a series of rare counterattacks and the quick surrender of their positions.
This time was remembered by the erratic escape of the Haftar army from the previously conquered city of Garyan. During the retreat, the LNA threw a lot weapons. Including Chinese drones, artillery shells from the UAE, Russian-made land-to-air missiles, American anti-tank missiles Javelin, etc.
The latter turned out to be a French supply. Paris then had a long time to make excuses to Washington. However, he could not clearly explain how the American Javelin ended up with General Haftar.
This case showed that the support of the Haftar army is quite serious. Tripoli will not be easy to deal with. It was then that the PNE government requested assistance from Turkish President Erdogan. Erdogan promised assistance and even recently sent Turkish troops to Tripoli, although he realized that this could upset his relationship with Moscow.
Intense conflict resolved in the most prosperous way. In Istanbul, Putin and Erdogan were able to smooth out the contradictions and came up with a common initiative to end the hostilities in Libya from 00:00 on January 12.
It seems that this decision was made without consulting Marshal Haftar, and he reacted instantly by making his “fi”. Within a few hours, the LNA official, General Ahmed al-Mismari, thanked the presidents of Russia and Turkey for the initiative “aimed at establishing peace in Libya,” said that the Haftar’s army would continue the war “against terrorist groups classified as such by UN Security Council resolutions.”
Khalifa Haftara can be understood. After a series of setbacks, he finally achieved military success, took the hometown of Muammar Gaddafi Sirt, the adjacent military bases and is now dreaming of taking Tripoli. Only he is unlikely to be able to do this without the support of his high patrons.
It cannot be ruled out that disrespect for the initiative of two authoritative presidents may cost the ambitious Khalifa Haftar such a long-awaited victory in Libya.