Turkey eager for economic payback in Libya including billions of debt

“Turkish companies … are in a position to rapidly begin such work,” said a Turkish official.
Saturday 20/06/2020
Pipelines at the port and Zawiya Oil Refinery, Libya. (REUTERS)
Pipelines at the port and Zawiya Oil Refinery, Libya. (REUTERS)

After having helped the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) advance in Libya’s battlefields, Turkey seems eager to win the lion’s share of economic spoils during the post-war phase.

A senior Turkish official told the Reuters news agency that Ankara wants to rapidly start “rebuilding” conflict-torn Libya, after President Tayyip Erdogan’s senior deputies visited Tripoli this week to discuss cooperation on energy, construction and banking.

Turkish support has helped the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord  reverse a 14-month assault on Tripoli by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

A Turkish delegation including the foreign and finance ministers met GNA officials on Wednesday for talks Ankara said aimed to bring about an end to fighting.

They also discussed payments said to be owed to Turkish companies for past energy and construction work in Libya, the official said  requesting anonymity.

Turkish and GNA officials discussed how Turkey could help in energy exploration and operations, including cooperation “on every imaginable project” to help resources reach global markets, the senior official said.

Last November, Turkey announced agreements with the GNA on maritime border demarcation and military intervention in Libya.

“Many parts of the country are in debris, there is a serious need for infrastructure and superstructure. Turkish companies … are in a position to rapidly begin such work,” the official said.

Before Turkey officially threw its support behind the GNA in November last year, Turkish builders had worked on projects in Libya. The backlog of Turkish contract work in Libya amounts to $16 billion, including $400-500 million for projects which have not yet begun, a sector official said in January.

Turkish energy firm Karadeniz Power could use its ships to remotely alleviate Libya’s energy shortages amid the fighting, the official added.

Another Turkish source said Ankara and the GNA also discussed sending Turkish advisers to Tripoli to help rebuild its banking system.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on broadcaster CNN Turk that part of the talks were about Turkish firms returning to Libya after the conflict. He said Turkey may also expand the scope of its military cooperation with the GNA.

Ankara is reported to be considering the establishment of military bases in Libya.

Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Syria too, have disagreed on the terms  of a ceasefire in Libya, with Ankara pushing for maximum military gains in central southern Libya before a halt in the fighting.

The GNA and LNA have resumed United Nations-brokered ceasefire talks.

Turkish entry into the conflict has also stoked tensions with other actors, as Ankara seeks an economic foothold in the North African country and is seen as intent on giving the political advantage to Islamists and militant groups there.

Ankara’s rush for economic spoils is bound to spark concerns among Libya’s neighbours, especially Egypt and Tunisia, whose populations depend on Libya for employment and cross-border trade.

Experts and officials in both countries are worried that Turkey would impose a monopoly on business and employment opportunities in oil-rich Libya.