The Grand Mufti of Libya has hailed support for the landmark maritime deal struck between the country’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and Turkey yesterday.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani, the highest Islamic religious and clerical figure in the country, voiced his support and urged the “Libyan authorities to accept Turkey’s military support to repel warlord Khalifa Haftar and his foreign backers attacking the capital,” according to the Libyan newspaper the Libyan Observer.
The deal, which was signed on 27 November and went into effect last week, determines both countries’ maritime rights and jurisdictions while rejecting illegal activities by other regional countries and international firms.
Its endorsement by Al-Ghariani has given the GNA’s alliance with Turkey and opposition to Khalifa Haftar a clerical backing and has further cemented the deal.
Since the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has been subject to two rival governments or factions within the country: the GNA, which controls most of the west including the key city of Tripoli, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls the east and is led by the formerly-exiled Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
Throughout the ongoing Libyan civil war, Turkey – along with the UN – has backed and militarily assisted the GNA against Haftar’s forces.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu commented on the situation yesterday, stating that “sending ground troops to Libya is not currently on Turkey’s foreign policy agenda,” but that it may consider doing so if the UN-backed GNA makes that request.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also announced yesterday that Turkey is prepared to send ground troops to Libya if necessary.
The deal also comes amid Turkey’s dispute with Southern Cyprus over the distribution of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean. Turkish drilling vessels have been sent to drill for natural gas in the waters off the island of Cyprus in recent months.
Turkey’s deployment of the drilling vessels since June was in retaliation to a deal struck by Greece, Southern Cyprus, and Israel earlier that month, in which the three states agreed to build a pipeline harnessing the reserves of natural gas off the southern shores of the island.
This EastMed pipeline, which is estimated to produce a profit of $9 billion over 18 years of the reserve’s exploitation, will supply gas from the eastern Mediterranean region all the way to countries in Europe.