ANKARA: The Turkish Navy is set to dispatch two frigates to Algeria to start joint maritime exercises.
With regional tensions simmering in the eastern Mediterranean, experts have drawn attention to the timing and objectives of the move considering Algeria neighbors war-torn Libya from the east.
The exercise not only coincides with the 500th year of commemoration of Oruc Reis, an Ottoman governor in North Africa who discovered the island of Djerba in Tunisia, but also Ankara’s surprise introduction of visa-free travel for Algerians.
The two frigates are expected to be forwarded between Jan. 7 and 10. During the dispatch, Algerian naval forces will also receive training from their Turkish counterparts.
The Tunisian presidency recently denied claims that the country would join an alliance with Turkey and Algeria in resolving the Libyan crisis.
Last month, Turkey and Libya signed a military cooperation deal and another on the delimitation of maritime borders, under which Turkey got the green light to deploy its own troops at the request of Libya’s government.
Syrian fighters were also dispatched to support Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, to fight against General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which control the country’s east.
Algeria’s newly elected President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has recently chaired a top security meeting to discuss contingency plans for a possible Turkish military intervention in neighboring Libya.
A parliamentary vote in Turkey is expected for early January on deploying troops to Libya, including formation of an elite Libyan force to respond directly to threats, as well as allocation of weapons, conducting of joint exercises and exchange of counter-terror intelligence.
Yahia Zoubir, director of research in geopolitics at the Kedge Business School in Marseille and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said the situation in Libya is worrisome for Algeria.
“The naval exercise must have been planned earlier. While Oruc Reis is part of Algeria’s history and pride, the Turkish military presence in Libya isn’t welcome for Algerians because Ankara is a member of NATO,” he told Arab News.
Zoubir said that Algerians see foreign presence in the region with suspicion and believe that it is part of a plan to destabilize the region for access to oil and gas.
“There is no doubt that the Algerian military is going to strengthen its borders with Libya and Tunisia, and will continue calling for a political, negotiated solution among Libyans,” he added.
Algerian citizens aged under 18 and over 65 were recently granted entry permits to Turkey with a presidential decree.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Tunis on Dec. 25 for talks with his counterpart President Kais Saied.
Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow from the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the Turkey-GNA maritime border delimitation agreement has made the survival of the GNA’s Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj critical for Turkey and Ankara is hoping for Tunisian and Algerian assistance to support him.
“Moreover, it seems that Erdogan’s surprise visit to Tunisia last week did not bring with it the desired result for Ankara in the context of Libya, so this potentially makes Algeria even more important for Turkey,” she told Arab News.