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Developing Story: Sources and related to Turkey's new role in the Mediterranean, sending of Syrians

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

In late November Turkey signed a deal with the Government of the National Accord in Libya. The GNA controls parts of Libya near Tripoli, while most of the country is controlled by Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army.

Since the deal with signed Turkey has indicated it will send forces to Libya to back the GNA. This is part of a security and economic cooperation deal. The parliament in Ankara has agreed to the deal but the details of troop deployments were unclear a month after the deal was signed.

What follows is the documents and details about the developing story that will have major implications on the Mediterranean. Specifically it is part of a growing role for Turkey in the region and North Africa, including a base in Qatar and Somalia.

The affect of the Turkish deal may increase cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt.

"The Memorandum of Understanding for maritime cooperation between Turkey and Libya of the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj was definitively voted by the Turkish Parliament on December 5 last," notes Modern Diplomacy.

Middle East Eye notes "Greece says EastMed pipeline deal to be signed 2 January despite tensions with Turkey." However on December 21 Anadolu argued that "Israel relations following Libya deal. Israeli government seems to have realized it has no choice but to head back to the negotiation table with Turkey." AP reported "The leaders of Cyprus, Greece and Israel plan to sign an agreement early in the new year for the building of the eastern Mediterranean natural gas pipeline, the Greek prime minister’s office announced Sunday."

On December 23 Anadolu noted "Turkey to discuss Syria, Libya in Moscow

Turkish Foreign Ministry delegation also to discuss Russian president's expected visit to Turkey on January 8." Turkish media has become increasingly hostile to Europe, sensing growing anger at Turkey's policies.

On December 26 the GNA government requested Turkey's military support. The next day Al-Ain media reported that Turkey was recruiting Syrian rebels to fight in Libya. Al-Balad news looked at the component of the groups. The reports of the deployment were initially denied. Omer Ozkizlcik wrote that the SNA had denied it would send forces. He noted that if they did it would create a "strong bond" of "armed revolutionaries in the Middle East." Elizabeth Tsurkov wrote on December 24 that "I've asked around among Syrian Turkish-backed fighters regarding the rumor they'll be sent by Turkey to fight in Libya. All deny it."

The first group reported on the ground was the Al-Mu'tasim Brigade ( فرقة المُعتصم‎,). Previously supported by the US as a vetted group with up to $5 million in funding, they served with the SNA in fighting the mostly Kurdish SDF as part of Turkey's October offensive. They are being derided as the "new janissaries." They are rumored to receive between $ 1,800 to $2,300 a month. SOHR reported similar details of "actions of the al-Hamzat Division, the Levant Front, the Al-Mu'tasim Brigade and the Al-Sham Brigade." New details are emerging daily of Turkey's plans to link the conflicts in Idlib to Libya.

Images of Syrians in Libya posted on social media on December 28

Much of this hinges on what Turkey and Russia may discuss in early January. Yasar Yakis has argued that Russia is seeking to consolidate its ties with the Islamic world. Russia is selling Turkey S-400s and has opened the TurkStream pipeline. Early tensions over a downed fighter jet in November 2015 and the killing of the Russian ambassador in December 2016 have changed dramatically with the Astana talks and S-400 deal and the subsequent deals over Afrin (January 2018), Idlib (September 2018) and Tel Abyad (October 2019). Now Turkey and Russia may seek to create a deal in Libya.

On January 2 Greece, Israel and Cyprus signed the East Med pipeline deal.

January 3: Turkey's parliament agrees to send troops.

On January 4 Turkey's Anadolu argued the deal had transformed geopolitics. This came as the Turkish parliament approved deployment of troop and Turkey said it would send Troops. Turkey's leader also met with Germany's chancellor and Turkey's foreign minister flew to Algeria (Erdogan went to Tunisia on December 25). On January 6 BBC reported Turkey was sending troops. A US statement noted "This deterioration in security underscores the dangers of toxic foreign interference in Libya, such as the arrival of Syrian fighters supported by Turkey as well as the deployment of Russian mercenaries." US President Donald Trump on Thursday January 2 spoke over phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressing concern about the deployed. In Libya the LNA tried to take Sirte and a drone strike blamed on Haftar was causing controversy.

January 5: First Turkish troops arrive.

There are thought to be 1,000 Syrian rebels in Syria and 1,700 training. They say they aren't making the $1,000 a month promised but just $50.

January 14: Russian FM Sergey Lavrov says no final deal reached on ceasefire talks. "All efforts now taken by Europeans including Germans, the French, Italians, the efforts by Libyan neighbors - Algeria, Egypt - as well as the UAE, Turkey, Qatar and Russia, we want to piece them all together so that everyone acts in one direction and urges all Libyan parties to reach agreements rather than sort things out militarily," he said.

Erdogan "If Turkey had not interfered, Haftar would have taken complete control of Libya. In addition to our Arab brothers Haftar plans to murder, there are also over 1 million Ottoman descendants Kuloğlu Turks there."

January 15: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed developments in Libya in a phone call.

Up to 2,000 Syrians are now in Libya - Guardian

January 16: Greece says it will block a Libya ceasefire after Haftar left Moscow, flew to Amman and then arrived in Greece for talks. Greece wants Turkey-GNA maritime deal "scrapped."

Turkey's presidential spokesman, US national security advisor speak over ... Ibrahim Kalin and Robert C. O'Brien also exchanged views on Libya and Syria.

Turkey says it will send more troops and begin gas exploration in Mediterranean in areas under Libya deal.

January 17: Germany hopes to broker ceasefire.

January 19: Libya summit in Germany could put sanctions if ceasefire violated. Can Europe's mend credibility with Libya deal, France 24 asks. “All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That’s one of the objectives of this conference,” Ghassan Salame, the UN’s special envoy for Libya, told AFP on the eve of the meeting. Pompeo meets Egyptians, UAE, Turkish delegation in Berlin. Calls for "UN-facilitated, Libyan-led political process, and the end of all foreign intervention."

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