Heading Towards the Berlin Conference

The participating countries are entering the final stretch for the Berlin Conference on the Libyan Civil War. The German initiative to host a conference, aiming to limit the long-lasting violence and unrest in Libya has been scheduled for this Sunday, 19 January 2020. Fifteen parties could participate in the conference, after being invited by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and the German Minister of Foreign affairs, Heiko Maas.

In addition to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (United States, Russian Federation, People’s Republic of China, France, and the United Kingdom), requests to attend have been sent to Italy, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, UAE and Republic of Congo. Representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, and the Arab League will also take part in the process.

Turkey; not really “internationally isolated”

Turkey has been engaging in some notable political manoeuvring over the last few months, with regards to Libya. Erdogan has been openly expressing his support for the Tripoli government and Fayez al-Sarraj, not only through diplomatic channels but also by providing substantial support on the ground. The talks around Turkish military equipment shipped to Tripoli amidst an active arms embargo and the deployment of Turkish troops to Libya have prompted wide controversy, fueling international criticism. Yet here is Turkey, being one of the main players in the peace negotiations in Berlin.

To the contrary of what Greek sources, and especially the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias, are trying to convince the public, Turkey is not internationally marginalized at all. Despite the provocative Turkish actions in the Mediterranean, that have been occasionally condemned by the EU and the States, Ankara is utilizing an ingenious, albeit risky, foreign policy using a well-balanced combination of political and military means.

The cooperation with Sarraj and – according to Tayyip Erdogan – the deployment of Turkish forces in Libya has created a situation on the ground, where Turkey is a de facto key actor, in all the processes around the Libyan Crisis. Considering the limited territory under Sarraj’s control and Haftar’s backing from Russia, Egypt and the Gulf countries, it is under question if the Turkish involvement could eventually tip the balance in favor of GNA in the case of a decisive escalation; in fact, it is dubious if Turkey was planning to engage in full battle against LNA, in the first place. According to a recent statement from the Turkish Vice President, Fuat Oktay, the large-scale deployment of Turkish Armed Forces in Libya, could be avoided, should the crisis deescalate. In a closer look, this could be just a Turkish well-played waggle, in order political leverage to be achieved in Libya through force projection; so far it has played out quite well for Ankara.

Greece; missing the point once again

Moving to the developments in Greece, things are rather discouraging for Hellenic Diplomacy and the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Both Greek Alternate Minister of Foreign Affairs, Militiadis Varvitsiotis and Government Spokesman Stelios Petsas stated in the previous days that Athens has been persistently pushing for the country’s participation in the Berlin Conference; as it turns out the Greek efforts have been far from fruitful. In the latest statement issued by Berlin, the Memorandum of Understanding, or at least the bilateral agreements over the maritime borders, between Turkey and Libya -the very reason that Greece had to participate- would not be discussed in the Conference and is not deemed relevant to the current peace talks. In this respect, all the EU countries that are not essentially involved in the Libyan Crisis would be represented by the EU delegate, according to the German side.

The German approach is candidly downgrading Athens’ international standing, especially when considering that Greek vital interests are at stake, depending on the developments in the Libyan front. The current situation should be primarily attributed to the failure of the Greek diplomacy to secure a position in the Conference, and secondarily to the unfair judgment of the German Chancellor. The situation is just as disappointing within Greece.

All the opposition parties have missed the point once again and seem unable to understand how important this matter for the country is. Such a critical issue has been treated as an opportunity to criticize the government and eventually has turned into a pointless political debate between the ruling party and the opposition. It’s about time for the Greek side -including parties all across the political spectrum- to carefully reconsider their approach to foreign policy issues and adopt a more responsible and unified stance. For now, all eyes are on Berlin; the decisions to be taken on Sunday, will have a significant impact not only in war-tormented Libya but also in the wider region, definitely including Athens and Ankara.