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Turkey, Libya foil plot in the East Mediterranean, says Erdogan

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Kocaeli, Turkey on 22 December 2019 [Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency]
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Kocaeli, Turkey on 22 December 2019 [Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the country has succeeded in foiling plots to exclude it from participating in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

In his address to the nation today, Erdogan stated: “The project to exclude Turkey from the Mediterranean has been foiled with the latest steps we have taken.”

“With support to the legitimate Tripoli government, Turkey will ensure implementation of all elements of agreements with Libya,” referring to Ankara’s recent relations with the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the city of Tripoli which is repelling attacks by its rival Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA).

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In recent weeks, Turkey has made steps to increase ties and military support for the GNA by signing pacts on military cooperation and maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean in the end of November. It also offered direct military support through the deployment of troops to the country in order to push back Haftar’s advance, which the GNA has accepted and called for.

Yesterday, the Turkish presidency submitted the motion for sending troops to Libya to parliament, where the matter is set to be debated on Thursday.

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.

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Turkey’s alliance with and support for the GNA also benefits the Republic’s position in the Eastern Mediterranean overall, which has been subject to increased tension throughout this year. It comes amid Turkey’s dispute with Southern Cyprus over the distribution of energy resources in the Eastern Mediterranean, to which Turkish drilling vessels have been sent to search for natural gas 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.

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