Former US Diplomat: Great Concern Over Foreign Mercenaries in Libya

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Retired American diplomat and academic expert on Turkish affairs Edward Stafford discussed current and future goals of Turkey’s military intervention in Libya during an interview with NEWS 218 on Tuesday.

Stafford stated that Ankara was constantly creating crises in which it was benefitting from without consequences. He added that it would support the UN operation and arms embargo as long as it believes that this was in its interest.

He stated that as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan believes Turkey has outstanding rights in the eastern Mediterranean, it was necessary not to ignore but rather deal with and curb its actions.

Stafford noted that President Erdogan, since assuming the post of prime minister in 2003, was counting on the fact that many NATO countries realize that Turkey’s membership in the alliance is beneficial.

The NATO Secretary-General understands that the problem is not Turkey per se, but Erdogan’s personal ambitions.

The retired diplomat indicated that if the parties in Libya agree to cancel the maritime agreement with Turkey, President Erdogan will find some way to thwart the agreement.

He pointed out that there are Turks in Libya who exert a great deal of influence on the Libyan Government.

“It is unlikely that Turkey will play a positive role in the negotiations between the Libyans, rather it will play a negative or destructive role,” he added.

“Libya’s situation is incredibly complex, with the presence of European Union members on opposite sides of the issue”.

Stafford highlighted that foreign mercenaries and IS members now in Libya are a source of great concern.

He claimed that Turkey does not want Islamic militants on its borders, so they have been sent to Libya in the hopes of killing them at the hands of Russian ‘Wagner’ mercenaries.

He said that President Erdogan’s long-term strategy is to restore Islam to Turkish political life and to abolish secularism. As well as intending to revive the Ottoman Empire as a means of spreading Islam, either by persuasion or conquest.

Stafford also noted that the Turkish President presents himself as a leader for all muslims, not only Turkey. His strategy is based on creating crises so that Turkey appears as the prominent defender of the rights of muslims around the world.

The diplomat said that President Erdogan was very patient, very smart, and changing his tactics to suit the status quo. He believes that Western powers are hindering Turkey from occupying its suitable place in the world stage.

Stafford also believed that Ankara was manipulating President Trump but finds it difficult with President Putin, who is strategically crueler and more skillful.

“US policy will change if Biden wins the elections. As Biden will tend to favor the idea of US intervention in the world. He may impose sanctions on Turkey in the S-400 case, and by removing Turkey from the F-35 program”, Stafford added.

He pointed out that the efforts of the US ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, were not sufficient, and the Libyan situation requires greater US action.

The problem is that many in the United States see Libya as the problem of the European Union, and that they are the ones who should solve this issue.

Stafford indicated that the UN recognizes one Libyan side, while trying to be an honest mediator between the factions.

He stressed that the real hope for Libya is to have an honest mediator, expressing his hope that the ceasefire will endure, and lead to meaningful negotiations.

He stressed the need for the US to use its good offices to support the UN efforts to reach a settlement in Libya, saying: “There will be no opportunity to increase American support for the efforts of the UN, until after the end of the elections. It is not enough for the superpower to be a neutral party in the Libyan conflict. Libya is closer to being a European problem, but it is certainly an American problem as well, and the US must be concerned about the impact of the Libyan problem on the region as a whole”, he added. “The useful role that the US can play is to make the Europeans agree on a unified policy towards the Libya”, Stafford concluded.