German news magazine ‘Der Spiegel’ published a report warning that, while the world was preoccupied with the global COVID-19 crisis, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was seeking to expand his influence in Tripoli and thus posing a threat to Europe.
Titled “Erdogan: Libya’s secret ruler”, the report states that “a few months ago it seemed that the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, would hold all the reins, but Government of National Accord (GNA) forces were now progressing thanks to Turkish support, weapons, and foreign fighters.”
The German magazine pointed out that the Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed by the GNA with Turkey last November signaled the intensification of Turkish efforts to intervene in Libya by providing military equipment and foreign fighters.
Erdogan’s commitment not to interfere in Libya during the Berlin Conference was merely “ink on paper”, evidenced by the fact that five days later a cargo ship loaded with ammunition, weapons and missiles sailed from the Turkish port of Mersin to Tripoli.
The report interviewed a Tripoli resident who described the continuous fighting as if “death rains on the city”.
He claimed “he did not expect the situation to come to this after the killing of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and he, like the rest of the capital, are left wondering where things are going to go wrong day after day.”
Life for Libyans has become unbearable as a result of prolonged conflict in the country since a NATO-backed intervention toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Today, everyday essentials such as bread, gasoline, and gas are becoming scarce and are being weaponized by parties to the conflict.
The article analyzed Europe’s lack of action in the face of Turkey’s intervention in Libya. Der Spiegal claimed that the EU was “paralyzed” due to differing support amongst Member States, especially between France and Italy.
“Europe possesses pressure cards to stop the war in Libya, including the list of sanctions that it can impose, but it is yet to do so,” said Monsef Karats, a weapons expert for the German magazine, adding that “Europe’s failure to use pressure, leaving space for Erdogan to enter, and intensify the war in Tripoli by using mercenaries, drones and weapon supplies to the GNA”.
According to Der Spiegel, there are roughly 7,000 Syrian fighters recruited by Turkey to take part in the war in Libya. They are rumored to be paid $2,000 a month, which is much higher than wages in Syria and reports claim that the Turkish government was pressuring Syrian militias to provide more fighters.
The German magazine quoted a source from the Syrian opposition who said that “Erdogan is threatening them if they do not send fighters to Libya, that he will cease supporting and financing them.”
The report discussed the situation with a Syrian officer who has been in Libya since January, saying “What is happening in Libya reminds him of the beginning in the war in Syria, where things worsened day after day”.
The officer pointed out that “two planes flew between Turkey to Tripoli on a daily basis to carry injured soldiers, who recently numbered about 100, while bringing 300 others to the battlefield. People here hate us, and for Turkey, we are just a chess game.” the Syrian officer said, revealing the tensions between Syrian and Libyan fighters.
The report also stressed that the “GNA is not backed by an organized army, but by militias and gangs that are hostile to each other.”
Der Spiegel claimed Erdogan’s influence in Libya would lead to his control not only of Libya’s vast oil supplies, but also of the number of migrants that cross into Europe, posing an exponential threat to according to the German magazine.