Erdogan finds Sarraj’s exit ‘upsetting’, plans to arm-twist GNA

“God willing we will turn this issue towards the direction it needs to go,” said the Turkish president.
Friday 18/09/2020
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media after attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Istanbul,  August 14. (Reuters)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to the media after attending Friday prayers at a mosque in Istanbul, August 14. (Reuters)

ISTANBUL - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey was “upset” by news that Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, an ally, wants to quit next month.

He said Ankara may hold talks with the GNA on the issue in the coming week, conspicuously pledging to impose its will on its allies in Tripoli.

Sarraj announced on Wednesday his intention to step down by the end of October. The move could feed political tensions in Tripoli, where signs of a power struggle have emerged in recent weeks between Sarraj and his interior minister, Fathi Bashagha. Sarraj’s departure could lead to infighting among senior GNA figures and militia warlords.

The GNA has been backed by militant groups, armed militias and thousands of mercenaries dispatched by Turkey in recent months to fight Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

Referring to Sarraj’s intent to step down, Erdodan said: “A development like this, hearing such news, has been upsetting for us.” He added that Turkish delegations may hold talks with Sarraj’s government in the coming week.

“With these meetings, God willing we will turn this issue towards the direction it needs to go,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.

Turkey, which helped the GNA turn back a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli in June, signed maritime border demarcation and military assistance deals with Tripoli last November. The maritime demarcation agreement was opposed by many Mediterranean countries, leading to tensions in the region.

Libya is also at the crossroads of a political settlement. Talks were held in recent weeks in Morocco and Switzerland between Libyan factions to find a political solution to the country’s conflict. Common ground was found on a number of aspects concerning the distribution of power among regions and the organisation of elections.

But Muslim Brotherhood figures in Tripoli were seen as jockeying to take control of financial resources.

Turkey was eying the controversial deals signed with the GNA and its growing military presence as a springboard to control Libya’s political future and the economic and business opportunities in the oil-rich North African country.