The Turkish parliament has ratified a security and military cooperation agreement struck last month with Libya’s United Nations (UN)-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Since 2014 the north African nation has been split between the GNA’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who rules the western part, and Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar’s forces control the oil-rich eastern side of the country. This has been the case after Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
Turkey’s ratification of the agreement came after the GNA government’s approval on Thursday. Lawmakers in the Turkish Parliament voted on Saturday 269-125 in favor, with votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The agreement has become law after being ratified parliament despite the opposition parties’ resistance.
Emrullah Isler, Turkey’s special envoy to Libya, said during the voting in parliament that if Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding father of the modern Republic of Turkey, were alive today, he would be pursuing the same policy with the AKP.
In response, Unal Cevikoz from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticized the AKP government for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s oldest Islamist movement, which has an influence on many other Muslim-populated countries, including Libya and Turkey.
“You [the AKP] back the Ihvan [the Muslim Brotherhood] wherever you find [the movement]. You are supporting the Brotherhood-affiliated GNA by saying, ‘they are an internationally recognized government.’ However, you are not backing the UN-recognized government in Syria. Instead, you are supporting the opposition there as they are from the Ihvan,” Cevikoz claimed.
The pact seeks to “provide a foundation for relations and develop cooperation” between the two through the exchange of personnel, materials, equipment, consultancy, and experience on security-related matters, in addition to enhanced cooperation on intelligence and the defense industry.
It also allows Turkish support for the establishment of a quick reaction force for the GNA’s police and military units per Libya’s request.
In practice, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey has already been providing the GNA with military supplies in violation of a UN arms embargo.
A report by the UN revealed last month that Turkey, along with Jordan and the UAE, had regularly violated its arms embargo on Libya since 2011, decrying foreign involvement in the country amid increased violence.
As in the case in Syria, Ankara backs one party to the conflict in Libya while Moscow, which is seemingly Turkey’s ally, supports the other side.
On Tuesday, the Russian administration announced that they were very concerned about a possible deployment of Turkey’s troops in Libya.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to discuss the issue with his Erdogan during talks in Ankara next month.
On Friday, Erdogan said his country could not remain silent over Russian-backed mercenaries backing Haftar’s forces, threatening to deploy troops to support the GNA.
However, no formal request by the GNA has been reported so far.
Special envoy Isler said Erdogan would need to file a separate motion for a vote by lawmakers in case of a request by the GNA for the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya. Isler further added that the Turkish president had ruled out the deployment of combat troops.
Meanwhile, Reuters quoting an unnamed US state department official reported that Washington had described the Turkish move as “unhelpful” and “provocative,” even if it is on opposing sides with Russia in Libya’s civil war.
Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Saturday that Ankara was ready to evaluate possible troop deployment. He added that the accords with Libya were historic for Turkey, referring to another controversial deal also conducted in November on the two countries’ maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.
A dispute over offshore oil and gas exploration off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus has been escalating, with Turkey, Libya, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and the Republic of Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, and Israel pitted as conflicting parties.
Similar to the security agreement, Ankara and Tripoli ratified the accord on maritime borders earlier in December, after which Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador to Athens.
The Brotherhood came to power in 2012, following the first modern free election in Egypt after a popular uprising that saw long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak toppled.
A year later, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted the Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Mursi. Since then, Sisi has overseen a crackdown on the Islamists, banning the movement and sending its leaders, together with its supporters to jail.
Turkey’s Islamist-rooted AKP government, which sees the Brotherhood as an entirely peaceful organization, has hosted a number of the organization’s members who had to flee their country due to being designated as a terrorist organization.