Erdoğan risks embroiling Turkey in Libya quagmire – analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s gambit in Libya appears more costly than beneficial with very limited international support and recent foreign-affairs blunders, wrote columnist Conn Hallinan for Foreign Policy in Focus.

"The Turkish president’s usual sure footedness seems to have deserted him. By openly declaring for one side in Libya, Turkey has damaged its ability to influence events," Hallinan said.

Turkey’s military intervention and support of the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) is viewed as a strategic move to secure gas and oil exploration rights in the eastern Mediterranean and outmanoeuvre a consortium of countries seeking to stake their own claims to offshore deposits in the area and exclude Turkey from the venture, according to Hallinan.

Other countries, such as France and Russia, by contrast, have taken unofficial measures to back the opposing Libyan National Army (LNA), such as arms smuggling or use of mercenaries, and can therefore distance themselves from the violence to play a mediating role, the analyst said.

Turkey's only official ally on the matter is Qatar. Even Morocco, whose ruling party is closely aligned to Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and on whose support the president was relying, has chosen to remain neutral and the 22-member Arab League, meanwhile, unanimously opposed Ankara’s plan to use Turkish soldiers.

Erdoğan’s plan for intervention struck a key note with supporters at home by backing the GNA, which in turn backs ethnic Turkish militia in Libya, and giving the impression of wider regional involvement, reminiscent of the days of the Ottoman Empire, Hallinan said.

But with Turkey’s growing economic woes and other ongoing complications stemming from involvement in Syria and Somalia, the Turkish president may find that his domestic support falters over time, he added.

Comparing Turkey's intervention in Libya with its continuing involvement in north Syria, Hallinan said there was no likelihood of an exit from the conflict in the foreseeable future.