Erdogan in new bid to cash in on Libyan war

Erdogan allies are expected to arrive in Libya in the next two weeks to seek deals. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 July 2020

Erdogan in new bid to cash in on Libyan war

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is dispatching a high-powered business and political delegation to Libya to cash in on opportunities when the civil war ends.
Company chiefs and Erdogan allies are expected to arrive in Libya in the next two weeks to seek deals in oil exploration, construction, banking and manufacturing.
Turkey has prolonged the conflict in Libya by intervening on the side of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, reversing a 15-month offensive by Libyan National Army (LNA) forces led by eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar.
With help from mercenaries supplied by Turkey, the GNA repelled an assault on Tripoli and pushed Haftar’s troops back. Fighting continues near the city of Sirte, but Erdogan has made it increasingly clear that he expects economic benefits from supporting the GNA, and a political delegation has already visited Tripoli in June.


SPOTLIGHT: With foothold in Libya, Erdogan’s Turkey eyes influence and energy riches


Sources in Ankara said a “committee” of business representatives would go to Libya and establish a business plan, with an initial focus on meeting Libya’s energy needs and restoring its infrastructure.
Turkish state lenders will help set up Libya’s banking system and regulator, and work is being done to funnel payments through Turkey for key Libyan imports, one official said.
Companies in Turkey have long been active in Libya, setting up power grids and building homes. The backlog of building contracts alone amounts to $16 billion. But projects were interrupted by the civil war, and contractors have been unable to travel because of the coronavirus pandemic.  
With 10 hours of power cuts a day in Libya, Turkish power company Karadeniz Holding is in talks with Tripoli to sell 1,000 megawatts of electricity. Turkish exports to Libya are $2 billion a year, and imports are $350 million.
Ryan Bohl, a regional analyst with the Stratfor geopolitical consultancy, told Arab News that investment and economic aid to Libya would be of little direct benefit to Turkey, but could boost Erdogan’s soft power.
“Investments like these … require stability to take root and be effective. Right now, such investments are a risk, in that they may get caught up in the fighting, or supplies may be disrupted as front lines in the conflict change.
“It is a long game, hoping to build up soft power that lets Turkey maintain stature in Libya for many years to come, but it’s a potential risk that these investments simply get eaten up in fighting or instability before they really have a chance to become productive.”

 


Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

Updated 9 min 44 sec ago

Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

  • Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the Gemmayzeh district came days after Macron took a tour of the same street last week
  • Students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives and provide emergency support

BEIRUT: Arriving in Lebanon after last week’s deadly Beirut blast, US envoy David Hale bypassed politicians to head straight to a hard-hit neighborhood where young volunteers are helping people abandoned by their state.
At the volunteer hub dubbed the “Base Camp,” there is a “focus on getting things done,” Hale told a press conference after his tour.
He contrasted the hive of activity to the “dysfunctional governance and empty promises” of Lebanon’s political leaders, who face public outrage over the explosion of a vast stock of ammonium nitrate stored for years at Beirut’s port.
Volunteer efforts “could not only be tapped to rebuild Beirut but (also) to undertake necessary reforms that will bring the kind of transformation that is necessary for Lebanon,” Hale said.
In the wake of the August 4 explosion of a the huge chemical store that laid waste to whole Beirut neighborhoods, students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives, provide emergency support and start to rebuild.
Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the blast-hit Gemmayzeh district came days after French President Emmanuel Macron took a tour of the same street last Thursday, as well as meeting Lebanese leaders.
But while Macron was welcomed as a savior, it was clear that the heroes of the moment were the volunteers.
“I don’t know why (Hale) would do that second step and go to meet politicians,” said Wassim Bou Malham, 33, who leads a database management team at the Base Camp.
“The aid is happening here, the data collection is happening here, the cleaning is happening here, the reconstruction is happening here,” he told AFP.
Wearing face masks and neon vests, volunteers sounded like international experts as they explained how they were cleaning up their government’s mess.
In fluent English, they described 3D mapping operations, data collection and relief efforts organized since the cataclysmic blast.
Bou Malham, who spoke with Hale during the tour, is not a data expert but picked up useful experience managing client databases for two of Beirut’s biggest nightclubs.
After the blast tore through the city, wounding 6,500 people and displacing 300,000 from their homes, his skills became vital for the aid effort.
The digitised database developed by Bou Malham and his team of volunteers is now critical for sorting and delivering aid to thousands of blast survivors.
“We haven’t seen any government official or representative actually come in here and ask us if we need anything,” he said.
“It’s so funny that David Hale is the first.”
It is not only in the Base Camp that the state has been thin on the ground.
In the first hours after the explosion, civil defense teams were vastly outnumbered by young volunteers flooding the streets to help.
By the next day, the latter had set up a camp where they offered food, medicine, temporary shelter and repair services to thousands of blast victims, in partnership with several non-governmental groups.
Operations have continued to expand since.
A Base Camp relief hotline received more than 200 calls in the first two hours. Volunteers have assessed the damage to around 1,200 homes and installed at least 600 wooden doors.
“The work is going to speak for itself,” said Bushra, a 37-year-old volunteer.
Simmering anger against Lebanon’s leaders has flared since the blast, which appears to have been caused by years of state corruption and negligence.
With 171 people dead, it is widely seen as the most tragic manifestation yet of the rot at the core of the country’s political system.
Western donors too are fed up with Lebanon’s barons, who have for years resisted reforms demanded by the international community.
In a joint statement released after an international donor conference organized by France in the wake of the disaster, world leaders called for aid to be delivered directly to the Lebanese people.
USAID acting administrator, John Barsa, said at the time that American help “is absolutely not going to the government.”
USAID “will increase its financial support to civil society groups in Lebanon by 30 percent to $6.627 million,” Barsa said in a press briefing on Thursday.
At the volunteer camp in Gemmayzeh, it was clear that funding would be put to good use.
Ziad Al-Zein, arrives before volunteers start their shifts at 9:00 am to ensure the camp is clean and secure.
The 33-year-old was among the first groups of volunteers clearing debris in Gemmayzeh.
“We are not speacialists in crisis management or catastophe management. We are learning things as we go,” he said.
“There is no state,” he added. “We will not abandon our fellow Lebanese in these conditions.”