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January 6, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8466

Russia Vs Turkey In Libya – Part III – Turkish Expert Hakki Ocal Replies To 'Rogue' Russian Ambassador To Turkey Aleksei Erkhov: Russia's Libya Policy Has Been Hypocritical Since It Allowed Qadaffi's Ouster, And Now A Russian Contingent Is Fighting For Haftar

January 6, 2020
Russia, Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8466

On December 21, Russia's Ambassador to Turkey Aleksei Erkhov replied to Turkish expert Hakki Ocal’s article, published in the Turkish pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah titled "Hey Putin, what are you doing?" that voiced surprise at Russia's support for Libyan National Army leader Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.[1]

In his reply to Ocal, a supporter of Turkey's position in Libya, Erkhov stressed that several hundred armed groups are terrorizing the Lybian population, and one of these factions is the Government of National Accord (GNA), whose leader is Fayyez Al-Sarraj. He dismissed Ocal's claim that a majority of Libyans support the GNA as wishful thinking.[2]

On December 23, Ocal fired back at Erkhov, stating that the just side is never determined by the size of its adherents. He then added that if Erkhov seeks to diminish the GNA to the status of Haftar’s rebellion, he is effectively declaring the maritime cooperation agreement that the Sarraj government signed with Turkey “null and void.” Turkey's position in Libya is based on the agreement including the option of armed intervention: “That agreement is bringing closer the possible dispatch of Turkish advisory troops to help defend Tripoli from an attack by forces supported by the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis,” Erkhov emphasized.

The prospects for such intervention increased on January 2, when the Turkish parliament ratified a motion authorizing the Turkish government to send troops to Libya. “A total of 509 lawmakers attended the session, with 325 lawmakers voting in favor of the motion and 184 rejecting it. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) backed the motion while the main opposition the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the Good (IYI) Party voted against it,” Turkey's Anadolu news agency reported.[3]

Earlier, the Turkish Parliament approved a security and military deal with the GNA. "The deal allows Turkey to provide military training and equipment at the request of the Libyan government, which controls the capital, Tripoli, and some of the country's western regions," the Daily Sabah pointed out.[4] Turkey may even consider providing Tripoli with the Hisar and Korkut missile systems.[5]

Turkey's Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin hailed the legislative mandate wrote on Twitter: "Turkey will continue to be strong in the field and at the table. The Libyan troop's deployment motion ratified in the Turkish Parliament is an important step taken to ensure peace and stability in Libya and to protect the interests of our country in North Africa and the Mediterranean."[6]

Turkey's special envoy for Libya Emrullah Isler also claimed that Libya would benefit from a Turkish presence: "I can easily say that Haftar and his kind will have no future in Libya. I believe that freedoms, rights and democracy will spread in this century.”[7] After preparing public opinion, Turkish troops began moving in to Libya on January 5, 2020.[8]

Russia showed concern– diplomatic shorthand for displeasure. Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, said that military intervention is not the best option to resolve the crisis in Libya. Slutsky said: "As for me, the Turkish parliament’s decision [to allow the government to send troops to Libya] causes concern. The deployment of Turkish troops to Libya at Tripoli’s request may deepen the crisis and deteriorate the situation.”

Instead of a military solution, Slutsky advocated UN mediation: added: "Russia has always called for resolving the domestic conflict in Libya through political and diplomatic means… There is a need to continue the search for peaceful methods to settle the crisis through the mediation of the United Nations and with the assistance of the entire international community."

Haftar pushed back politically and militarily against the threatened Turkish intervention. On January 4, the Libyan House of Representatives [HoR], based in pro-Haftar eastern Libya, voted against Turkey's deployment, as requested by the GNA. The HoR also rejected all the MOU contained in the security and maritime cooperation signed by the GNA with Turkey.[9]

Haftar also announced a mobilization to counter any aggression from the outside. "The battle for Tripoli is coming to its end. Nobody should have doubts that the capital will be liberated… We accept the challenge and I announce countering and the general mobilization against any foreign troops that will be sent to our country," Haftar stated.[10]

On January 4, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The two ministers discussed the latest developments in Libya, Syria, and Iraq.[11]

Below is Ocal’s article, titled “Russia playing with fire in Libya”:[12]


Hakki Ocal (Source: Barandergisi.net)

‘No Mr. Ambassador; The Just Side Is Never Determined By The Size Of Its Adherents’

"I was intending to put in my two cents' worth on U.S.-Russian competition and its ill effects on TurkStream, a Russo-Turkish joint project that directly connects the large gas reserves in Russia to Turkish ports. It is not only going to benefit Turkish consumers but will also provide reliable energy supplies for south and southeast Europe. The TurkStream, as well as the Nord Stream 2 that connects the Russian natural gas pipelines to Germany, are going to be sanctioned by the U.S. government. I was going to show the ‘Rogue State? syndrome in such extraterritorial sanctions the U.S. tries to impose at will.

“But the rogue states can wait. We have a rogue ambassador at hand. Ambassador Aleksei Erkhov is a prolific responder to the Daily Sabah. That is not bad. For many years ambassadors representing the USSR were unbearably reticent on political issues, the whole world used to think that only the Politburo members have a tongue in their mouths.

“I tweeted Ambassador's Erkhov’s response to my piece on the internal strife in Libya and a follower simplified his response as follows: Mr. Ambassador says Russia will wait to see who is going to win in Libya and it will support them; the rest is diplomatic gobbledygook.

“I wouldn’t say that for an ambassador who has such a winning smile; but before he does question my reasoning, he has to review his take on Libya.

“Mr. Erkhov accepts that Russia simply watched the U.S. and EU topple and atrociously kill the legitimate government and lawful ruler of Libya. He uses three arguments in defending Russia’s inaction on Libya, past and present; let me paraphrase them:

“1. Some countries believed that they were the grandmasters of the world’s destinies. Russia didn’t.

“2. The situation is getting worse; we cannot get involved anymore.

“3. We don’t know which side to support.

“For the ambassador (I hope not for the Russian government) despite the fact that it is called the Government of National Accord (GNA), the Tripoli government is neither nationally nor internationally recognized and Mr. Haftar controls a significant part of the country:

“‘Claiming that the majority of the country supports the GNA would also be wishful thinking, they say. It is not that I share such opinions but analyzing the situation as a whole I definitely have to take them into account. Who is better – Mr. Haftar or Mr. Sarraj – it’s up to the Libyans to decide.’

“Imagine it is the day after the Gulenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) coup bid, and the country had been divided into two, as some say that was the plan all along. The Russian ambassador cables to Moscow saying that ‘I share not, but the FETO-ists have a sizeable part of the country in their control; we have to take it into consideration. Besides, the U.S., the EU, Egypt, Israel, Greece and the Greek Cypriots all are supporting the FETÖ coup. Could the majority of these nations be wrong? Oh, между прочим [by the way], we saw some black banners with Arabic scribbles in the Erdogan-held areas.’

“No Mr. Ambassador; the just side is never determined by the size of its adherents. The Vietnamese were the just side despite the atrocities of the Viet Kong; and Iraq was the just side despite the number of nations in the U.S. coalition.

“If you diminish the GNA to the status of Haftar’s rebellion, you are declaring the maritime cooperation agreement it signed with Turkey as ‘null and void.’ That agreement is bringing closer the possible dispatch of Turkish advisory troops to help defend Tripoli from an attack by forces supported by the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis. In that case, the vital question should be whether the force Turkey might send to Libya engages with Russian contingency, the Wagner Group, has in the country. Those countries that support Gen. Haftar say the Wagner Group is a Russian paramilitary organization waging secret wars on the Kremlin's behalf from Ukraine to Syria to the Central African Republic.”

 

[3] Aa.com.tr, January 3, 2020.

[4] Dailysabah.com, January 3, 2020.

[5] Tass.com, January 2, 2020.

[6] Dailysabah.com, January 3, 2020.

[7] Dailysabah.com, January 3, 2020.

[8] Bbc.com, January 6, 2020.

[9] Libyanexpress.com, January 4, 2020.

[10] Tass.com, January 4, 2020.

[11] Mid.ru, January 4, 2020.

[12] Dailysabah.com, January 2, 2020.

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