The Arab League has denounced approval by the Turkish parliament of a bill that allows Ankara to send troops to Libya.
In a statement on December 2, the pan-Arab organization said it would continue to offer backing to the political process in Libya on the road to a negotiated settlement to its crisis.
“The Arab League underscores the importance of stopping foreign interference in Libyan affairs,” the league said.
Turkish troop deployment
The statement came only hours after the Turkish parliament approved the bill, which was submitted by Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In his letter to the Turkish parliament, Erodgan said the deployment of Turkish troops in Libya would protect Turkish interests in North Africa and offer support to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
The expected troop deployment came in the light of a security cooperation deal the GNA signed with Ankara on November 28. This was one of two deals which also included another on the delimitation of maritime boundaries between Turkey and Libya.
Erdogan said the security cooperation pact allows his country to send troops to Libya at the request of the GNA. The GNA requested Turkish military support on December 19.
Escalation of tensions
Turkey’s deployment of troops in Libya will exacerbate tensions in North Africa and in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
Libya now has a fully-fledged civil war, in which Islamist militias affiliated to the GNA and backed by Turkey are pitted against the Libyan National Army (LNA), which contains some of the military commanders that served under the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The LNA controls almost three-quarters of Libya, including the country’s eastern part, its south and some parts of western Libya.
The GNA is locked in Tripoli, some parts of Misurata and some parts of western Libya.
The LNA is now marching towards Tripoli and has succeeded in overrunning some of the districts of the Libyan capital. It wants to significantly reverse the military situation in Libya before Erdogan can send any formidable military support to the GNA and its Islamist militias.
By deploying its troops in Libya, Turkey will be part of this civil war, but it will be there to back one party, namely the GNA, against the other: the LNA.
Some of the Turkish lawmakers who debated Erdogan’s troop deployment request on December 2 expressed fears from this.
One of these lawmakers even asked about why Turkish troops would be sent to fight in the deserts of Libya.
There is also regional opposition to Turkish military presence in Libya, including from Egypt, Greece and Cyprus which see in the planned Turkish troop deployment an increasing of tensions in the region.
The Arab League’s December 2 condemnation of the Turkish parliament’s approval of the expected Turkish troop deployment came only days after the league called for preventing foreign interference in Libyan affairs.
At an emergency meeting at the league headquarters in Cairo on December 31, the league said foreign interference in Libyan affairs would ease the relocation of extremists and terrorists from some conflict zones, including Syria, to Libya.
It expressed concern about what it described as “military escalation” in Libya.
“This escalation makes the Libyan crisis worse and threatens the security of Libya’s neighboring countries,” it added.
On December 2, the Libyan parliament, which is based in the northeastern Libyan city of Tobruk, called on the league to ask its member states to activate a 1950 common defense pact between Arab states.
Nevertheless, the league’s ability to take action in this regard is very limited, given rifts among Arab states on what is happening in Libya, analysts said.
The league has 22 member states, but these states do not share the same view on developments in Libya, they added.
“Some of the states inherently back Turkey, like in the case of Qatar,” said Libyan affairs specialist, Abdel Sattar Heteita. “Other states support opposing parties in the conflict.”