Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Turkey-France rivalry over Libya (part 2)

With Gaddafi out of power, France and Turkey both want to reap the benefits of the Libyan uprising.
see Part 1 here

Prime Minister Erdogan’s visits to Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in which administrations fall with the public movements referred as the Arab Spring were followed in the region as well as by the international community, they also resulted in some concerns in certain countries.
France, getting uncomfortable with the initiatives of Turkey, arranged an official visit to Libya where the most brutal aspects of the Arab Spring take place, and France also underscored the French role during the process of transformation in the country.

In their statements, the British Prime Minister Cameron who made visits to Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya with Sarkozy indicated that the NATO intervention and the role of the United Nations would continue. Both leaders, in their statements to the Libyan public, posited that their target was to bring freedom to Libya. While Sarkozy and Cameron were stating that they would go on with the war, there were some clashes in Sirte and Beni Velid. After the visit of two leaders, the United Nations General Assembly recognized the National Transitional Council of Libya as the legitimate representative of Libya and the UN Security Council produced the 2009-numbered resolution in which the members agreed on the establishment of a temporary mandate government in Libya under the United Nations Support Mission in Libya –UNSMIL-. This way, it became evident that at least one of the countries supporting the NATO’s military intervention in Libya will be directly coordinating the new restructuring period in Libya for additional three months.

Mandate government in Libya and the new policy regarding Libya of the West

During the Libya Conference arranged and hosted by Sarkozy and Cameron in Paris on September 1, the subject of discussion was the establishment of a mission in Libya by the United Nations in order to bring stability to Libya and the removal of the sanction decisions. 1 During the visit of the two leaders to Libya, in a draft resolution presented to the Council to be added on the agenda, there was the demand of the establishment of a mandate government of the UN in Libya. On September 16, the members of the Council agreed with a consensus to establish a new authority in order to help the National Transitional Council in Libya with the 2009-numbered resolution. Within the resolution, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya was planned to help the National Transitional Council in preparing a new constitution, providing the rule of law, supporting the public security, contributing to the consensus efforts with the inclusion of large numbers, writing the new law of elections and realizing the elections. In the decision, letting the Libyan accounts that were held frozen free, lifting the arm embargo partially and removing the sanctions applied on the oil companies were also agreed on. The activities of the UN are indicated to contribute to the embrace of a democratic, independent and united Libya with the consideration of the Libyan sovereignty. 2 UN Support Mission in Libya will also help the National Transitional Council of Libya in improving economy, and managing the economic sources and funds. 3 At this point, there will be a huge discussion topic about how billions of dollars will be used in restructuring of Libya and what kind of a role the UN Support Mission in Libya will be having on this matter. It is not clear whether the National Transitional Council will be making a decision while new agreements to be made on the construction and oil sectors will appear on the agenda. It is essential to underscore the role of the UN Support Mission in Libya in re-constructing hundreds of thousands of collapsed buildings, establishing oil pipelines and discovering new oil reserves and their marketing. Moreover, the management of about $170 billion money assets of Libya that were frozen externally after its being freed is raising many questions in one’s mind.

Statements made in Libya by Turkey and France

The main argument made by Sarkozy and David Cameron during their visits to Libya was that they have been supporting the opponents since the very beginning of the insurgencies. Furthermore, they declared that their support to the National Transitional Council would go on until the pro-Gaddafi forces surrendered. While Sarkozy indicated that the Libyan public was under threat and the NATO attacks would continue, Cameron posited that the mission was not completed and the UK would maintain the fighting until Gaddafi would be brought before justice. 4 On the other hand, it is noteworthy of underscoring that President of the National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil stated during the joint press meeting in Tripoli once again that the countries contributing to the restructuring of Libya would be prioritized. Even though both leaders did not discuss about the economic issues before the public, President of the National Transitional Council Jalil indicated that the countries supporting the opponents will be prioritized and some of the agreements signed during Gaddafi reign would be put under investigation. 5 As a matter of fact, the French Liberation Newspaper argued that in return of the full support of France, the opponent leaders gave 35% right of management of the oil production in Libya. While Minister of Foreign Affairs Allain Juppé stated that he was not aware of such a letter, he said the following: “However, as far as I know the opponents declared that they would prioritize the countries supporting the re-construction in Libya the most. I found it quite logical and fair. Besides, we are not alone; there also the Americans and Italians. All said that ‘Intervention in Libya is expensive, yet it is an investment on the future.’” 6

At this point, France and the UK gave two messages in Libya. First of the them is the military, political and diplomatic support given to the opponents since the inception and the second one is that they will not let any group in Libya, apart from the National Transitional Council, to take part in the re-construction period in Libya. However, one should not forget that the source of legitimacy of the resolutions produced about Libya by the UN and the NATO intervention is the protection of the civilians. As of September 1, it is ignored that the side in defending position is not the one belonging to the National Transitional Council but to the pro-Gaddafi forces and the ones in offensive position are the forces under the National Transitional Council. It could have been better for NATO to take a different stance for the future of Libya after the attacks made by NATO in Sirte and Ben Velid to the protect the civilians, yet caused to death of many in the cities.

Therefore, while France and the UK were declaring during their visits to Libya that they supported the continuation of the war, the Libyans were fighting against each other in Sirte and Beni Velid. As the forces of the National Transitional Council bombed the cities under attack heavily, the NATO forces went on bombing the cities from air. While one found a rightful and legitimate side of the bombings of the forces of Gaddafi by the NATO forces during the period in which Tripoli was under Gaddafi administration, it will bring about various grave problems to ignore the problems of the groups, which are referred as pro-Gaddafi one but composed of opposing tribes, in Beni Velid, Sabha and Sirte.

Although one knows that there is no possibility of Gaddafi coming to power again, one should discuss about how the attacks made on these cities are in line with the mission of protecting civilians. For example, to define a group belonging to the Varfalla tribe that is resisting to the National Transitional Council in Ben Velid as a pro-Gaddafi group and to suppress these groups using military methods might result in blood feuds between tribes.

Within that context, when one analyzes the factors stated by Prime Minister Erdogan during his visit to Libya, it is seen that Turkey gave important messages to the new figures in power, to the public in Sirte and Beni Velid and to the Western powers. While Prime Minister Erdogan was criticizing the policies of the powers considering the Libya problem merely with economic concerns, especially the oil resource concerns of the West, during his visits in Libya, he also made some suggestions of resolving the problems between the Libyan groups with democratic methods. In return of the threat of France and the UK in preserving the war, Turkey stated that she supported the inclusion of the seemingly pro-Gaddafi groups into the process of restructuring. Prime Minister Erdogan underscored the importance of the inclusion of these groups into this restructuring process with his following statements: “There ongoing clashes in Sirte, Sabha at the moment. I am now telling my brothers staying there that: ‘Come and you too join Tripoli and Benghazi, work together. Do not shed more blood, do not let more people die’”. 7 Soon after the statements of Turkey in Libya, she commenced to send humanitarian aid to the opposition tribes in Beni Velid, Sirte and other cities. Looking from a comparative perspective, to the areas that are bombed by the NATO forces from air, Turkey sends humanitarian aid. Even though this situation draws attention of some pro-NTC groups, the policy of Turkey can be referred as to approach all Libyans equally.

Prime Minister Erdogan also gave messages to the countries and the ones ready to cooperate with these countries wishing to take the control of the underground and overland resources, especially the oil reserves in Libya, of the country. Prime Minister Erdogan demonstrated that he was against to the policies of France and the UK, and on the other hand, called for the Libyan public to be more careful against the policies of the National Transitional Council in marketing the resources of Libya to other countries with his following argument: “Do not give credit to anyone making calculations over the underground and overland resources of Libya. Libya belongs to the Libyans.” 8

To conclude, the most important message of Prime Minister Erdogan during his visit to Libya is that Turkey has a humanitarian responsibility to the all Libyan equally and despite some reactions of certain groups, she will be determined to send aid to Beni Velid and Sirte. Turkey, at the same time, made some warning to the Libyan public about his allies in NATO desiring to take control over the underground and overland resources of Libya and in case of signing possible contracts, she underscored she would raise her voice once again. Therefore, it can be asserted that Turkey will be bringing the discussion over policy towards Libya once again in the upcoming days. It is thought that the Western powers, especially France, will start to implement their economic expectations over Libya that has not ensured her stability yet with different strategies. The agreements to be signed during the process of transformation will be restricting the field of action of the figures coming to power in the upcoming periods. It is thought that Paris is aware of that, and thus, will try to exclude the seemingly pro-Gaddafi groups from the transition process. This way, they will try to realize their targets on some Libyans and Libya in general.



[1] Jamey Keaten, “ UN chief urges quick civilian mission in Libya”, The Guardian News, September 1, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9826158
[2]Please go to, UNSC, SC/10389, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2011/sc10389.doc.htm
[3] Ibid.
[4] Akhbar News, “Libya’s Victory Celebrations: NATO's Reapers”, September 17, 2011, http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/libya%E2%80%99s-victory-celebrations-natos-reapers
[5] David Smith, “Cameron and Sarkozy meet Libya's new leaders in Tripoli”, The Guardian News, September 15, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/15/cameron-sarkozy-libya-leader-tripoli 2011.
[6] Hürriyet Newspaper, “Yüzde 35’i kapmış bile”, 02.09.2011, http://hurarsiv.hurriyet.com.tr/goster/printnews.aspx?DocID=18630098
[7] T24 News, “Erdoğan: Libya'nın yanında olacağız”,16.09.2011, http://www.t24.com.tr/haberdetay/169009.aspx
[8]TRT News, “Başbakan Libya'dan Suriye'ye Seslendi”, 16.09.2011, http://www.trt.net.tr/Haber/HaberDetay.aspx?HaberKodu=c6c28621-35ff-459e-a81c-e5d5a7e3d7e1
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Veysel AYHAN, ORSAM Middle East Advisor, Abant Izzet Baysal University Department of International Relations

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