Turkey’s main opposition urges govt neutrality in Libya

Fighters of a military battalion loyal to Libya’s Gen. Khalifa Haftar march during the morning assembly in the eastern city of Benghazi. (AFP)
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Updated 16 January 2020

Turkey’s main opposition urges govt neutrality in Libya

  • ‘Play a mediation role between two rival camps rather than siding with Tripoli administration’

ANKARA: Turkey’s main opposition leader on Tuesday urged Ankara to play a mediation role in Libya between the country’s two rival camps, rather than siding with the Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez Al-Sarraj.

“We’ve … urged the government not to follow the Syria policy in Libya. We told them not to support one side, but try to mediate between the fighting parties. Turkey has … followed this policy between Iran and Iraq, for instance,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

He also urged the government to mend ties with other countries in the region, especially Syria, Israel and Egypt.

“Rather than trying to assume the role of an honest broker, the government has preferred to take part in regional conflicts, which has caused great damage to Turkey,” Kilicdaroglu said, citing the Syrian conflict.

Turkey backs Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based government against forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya.

Ankara recently sent military advisers to Libya to reinforce its support to the GNA, in return for a controversial maritime agreement in Mediterranean waters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened a large-scale military intervention after he obtained parliamentary approval.

Ariz Kader, an independent researcher on regional conflicts, said Kilicdaroglu is urging the government to become a mediator because this is what the Turkish public wants to hear.

“Erdogan is trying to save his last Muslim Brotherhood ally in North Africa. It’s something he can’t say outright without giving up the game,” Kader told Arab News.

Unal Cevikoz, the CHP’s deputy chairman responsible for foreign relations, said the deterioration in Ankara’s ties with regional countries such as Israel and Egypt undermines Turkey’s role as an honest broker, especially in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. Deploying troops abroad is also triggering accusations of neo-Ottomanism, he added.

Turkey does not currently have ambassadors in Syria, Israel or Egypt due to tensions with those countries. Ankara began explicit contacts with Damascus at the level of spy chiefs only two days ago.

“To assume a mediation role, Turkey should begin by prioritizing the role of the UN in the Libyan crisis rather than insisting on hard-power capabilities, which only serves to escalate the conflict even further,” Cevikoz told Arab News.

To regain its reliability in the eyes of the international community, Turkey has to drop its policy of taking sides in regional conflicts, said Cevikoz, a former ambassador to the UK.

Meanwhile, Erdogan warned on Tuesday that Turkey will not refrain from “teaching a lesson” to Haftar if his forces continue to attack the people and government in Tripoli.

“It’s our duty to protect our kin in Libya,” Erdogan said, referring to Libyans of Turkish origin.

Germany will be hosting a summit on Libya with the UN on Sunday to gather the rival camps.


Pressure for Turkey lockdown grows, Erdogan vows to sustain economy

Updated 31 March 2020

Pressure for Turkey lockdown grows, Erdogan vows to sustain economy

  • Turkey has stopped all international flights and limited domestic travel
  • Authorities still haven’t ordered people to stay home
ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan is under growing pressure from unions and the opposition for a lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, but insists that Turkey should “keep wheels turning” in the economy and that people continue going to work.
Ankara has stopped all international flights, limited domestic travel, closed schools, bars and cafes, suspended mass prayers and sports fixtures to counter the outbreak.
The authorities have not, however, ordered people to stay at home, even as the number of cases in Turkey has risen sharply. On Monday these reached 10,827, less than three weeks since Turkey registered its first case. The death toll jumped to 168, drawing fresh calls for tighter measures.
With Turkey emerging from a recession triggered by a 2018 currency crisis, Erdogan aims to avoid endangering the recovery by enforcing a stay-at-home order that would halt economic activity and has called instead for voluntary self-isolation.
Two leading union confederations called for a halt to all but emergency work and for measures to be implemented to support workers. “All work should be stopped for a minimum of 15 days except for the production of essential and emergency goods and services,” TURK-IS Chairman Ergun Atalay said in a statement.
He also called for a ban on layoffs for the duration of the pandemic and said income support should be provided to all workers who are experiencing loss of work and income. The DISK union confederation issued an identical statement.
The Turkish Medical Association said on Monday there were many mistakes in Ankara’s “inadequate” response to the pandemic, saying borders had been left open too long and that quarantine had not been imposed on most Turks returning from abroad.
“At this stage, the disease has spread to every part of the country, hence the opportunity to enforce a quarantine has gone,” it said in a statement.
It said that more than 30,000 tests needed to be carried out daily and that those testing positive needed to be properly isolated.
But after a cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdogan said it was necessary to maintain output to sustain the supply of basic goods and support exports.
“Turkey is a country that needs to continue production and keep the wheels turning under all conditions and circumstances.”
The main opposition CHP party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said measures imposed on senior citizens and the chronically ill should be extended to a nationwide “quarantine.”
“Inadequate” response
The CHP’s Istanbul mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, underlined the importance of a lockdown in the country’s biggest city, with a population of 16 million people — nearly a fifth of Turkey’s population.
“If 15% of the city’s population goes out that is 2.5 million people. As the weather gets better people will go out,” Imamoglu told Fox TV in an interview on Monday. “Even if they don’t do it for Turkey, a lockdown can be announced for Istanbul.”
On Monday, Erdogan also launched a campaign to collect donations from citizens for those in need, saying he was donating seven months of his salary to the cause and that the effort had already drawn $11 million.