Turkey sees Libya as a whole and is in favor of stability and political reconciliation in the war-torn country, Turkey’s Ambassador to Tripoli Kenan Yılmaz said Monday.
Libya’s speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, recently affirmed the rapprochement with Turkey and said he would visit Ankara in the near future. He is expected to visit Turkey on Aug. 1-2 and hold talks in the capital Ankara.
Ambassador Yılmaz evaluated Turkey’s expansion to the east of Libya and Saleh’s visit to Turkey to the Anadolu Agency (AA).
“We think that this visit is of great importance in terms of addressing all aspects of our relations and other political dimensions,” he said and added that he had verbally invited Saleh to Turkey during their meeting in January, and that they had conveyed the invitation of Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop to them in June.
Yılmaz stated that they had planned Saleh’s visit to Turkey in the first week of July, but this visit had to be postponed due to the protests that broke out in Libya on July 1 and the destruction of the House of Representatives building in Tobruk.
Stating that if possible, Saleh can be accepted by the higher authorities in Ankara, Yılmaz said: “We are continuing our efforts to ensure that Saleh’s postponed visit takes place as soon as possible.”
Noting that Turkey has deep-rooted historical relations with Libya, Yılmaz said that they first went to the city of Kubbe on Jan. 19 and had a very productive meeting with Saleh where they were warmly welcomed.
Yılmaz stated that they went to Benghazi with a group of Turkish businesspeople on Jan. 29 at the invitation of Benghazi Mayor Sakr Bucevari.
Yılmaz said that they discussed the continuation of the unfinished projects of Turkish companies that had worked in eastern Libya in the past and their participation in new projects, the reactivation of the currently closed Benghazi Consulate General of Turkey, and the resumption of Turkish Airlines (THY) Benghazi flights.
Yılmaz noted that they established the Turkey-Libya Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group in April 2021 within the Turkish Parliament and Ahmet Yıldız is currently the chair.
Reiterating that they received the delegation in Turkey, which included a group from the House of Representatives in Tobruk, in December, Yılmaz said that they are making plans for a delegation headed by Ahmet Yıldız to visit the House of Representatives.
Regarding Turkey’s stance on the solution initiatives between the rival parties in Libya, he said: “In Libya, we have based our approach to finding a solution on principles and legitimacy from the very beginning. We support the Libyan-led solution based on legitimacy, which is owned by the Libyans.”
Yılmaz also stated that in the negotiations between the House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of the State, many items were agreed upon, there were a few controversial issues, and that Turkey supports these talks.
Emphasizing that they would benefit from preparing the constitutional ground in Libya as soon as possible and leading the country to elections, Ambassador Yılmaz said: “Turkey’s approach is the establishment of stability and political reconciliation in Libya and, naturally, the dominance of security. It is a holistic approach that covers the whole of Libya rather than political figures and sees the country as a whole. We see Libya as a whole, without making any distinction between the eastern, southern or western regions.
“One of our principles is not to create a power vacuum in the country. Instead of creating successive transitional governments, it would be best for Libya to come together by consensus and focus on elections,” he underlined.
After years of conflict in Libya between the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and illegitimate forces loyal to eastern-based putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the consequential difficult diplomatic period, an interim unity government has been established in recent years.
Turkey and Libya have seen closer ties in recent years, especially after the signing of security and maritime boundary pacts in November 2019, along with Turkey’s aid to help the legitimate Libyan government push back the putschist Haftar’s forces.
In the recent Libyan crisis, Turkey supported the U.N.-recognized legitimate government in Tripoli against the eastern-based illegitimate forces led by Haftar, who was backed by Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia. Turkey’s support for the Tripoli government was critical to repel the Haftar forces’ offensive to capture the capital Tripoli and led to a period of stability resulting in the formation of the unity government.
In the current situation, Turkey suggests that an election reflecting the will of the Libyan people should be held for the establishment of a long-lasting and stable government in the country.
Turkey had previously said that it was ready to talk to Saleh and his ally, putschist Gen. Haftar. Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in December said that Saleh and Haftar had backtracked on a potential meeting.
Early in July, Libyan protesters stormed and set fire to the premises of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, calling for the abolition of legislative and executive bodies and for elections to be held as soon as possible.
Once again, two competing governments are vying for control in Libya, already torn by more than a decade of civil war.
Libya has for years been split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each supported by rogue militias and foreign governments. The Mediterranean nation has been in a state of upheaval since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
But a plan had emerged in the past two years that was meant to put the country on the path toward elections. A U.N.-brokered process installed an interim government in early 2021 to shepherd Libyans to elections that were due late last year.
That government, led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, briefly unified the political factions under heavy international pressure. But the voting never took place, and since then, the plan has unraveled and left the country in crisis.
Lawmakers in Libya’s east-based parliament, headed by influential speaker Saleh, argued that Dbeibah’s mandate ended when the interim government failed to hold elections.
They chose Fathi Bashagha, an influential former interior minister from the western city of Misrata, as the new prime minister. Their position gained the endorsement of Haftar whose forces control the country’s east and most of the south, including major oil facilities.
Dbeibah has refused to step down and factions allied with him in western Libya deeply oppose Haftar. They maintain that Dbeibah, who is also from Misrata with ties to its powerful militias, is working toward holding elections.