Turkey and its Islamist proxies and forces in war-torn Libya will do everything to make sure presidential and legislative elections will not take place in the country as scheduled, said Aya Burweila, a senior adviser at the Research Institute for European and American Studies and a BBC Expert Woman in Terrorism and Radicalisation.
Libya’s parliament last month approved an interim government tasked with bringing the fractured North African country together after 10 years of conflict, as well as overseeing the December elections as part of a U.N.-backed peace plan.
“They don’t want elections in Libya because they know that the Islamists will not have a future in Libya,” Libya-born Burweilla told Nervana Mahmoud, a political commentator and host of Ahval’s Turkish Trends podcast programme.
Turkey has been closely involved politically and militarily in Libya, throwing its full weight behind the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli, that controlled the west of the country against the Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi that controlled the east. The LNA is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.
Turkey has sent military supplies, soldiers and Syrian fighters to Libya in a bid to tilt the balance of power in favour of the GNA.
“They will do everything to sabotage elections,” said Burweila, who is also founder and head of operations of Code on the Road, a non-profit civil society organisation empowering native and migrant women.
Burweila said that Turkish forces have not left the oil rich country, and it is not known when they will, despite a ceasefire agreement that calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters.
That is why, according to Burweila,”there needs to be an international coalition to contain Turkey” in Libya’s affairs.
Burweila said Turkey wants to keep the Syrian mercenaries it deployed in Libya as an insurance policy to both provide security for loyalist Libyan politicians as well as put pressure on the Tripoli government to do what it wants.
Over 11,000 Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries remain in Libya, the Libya Review reported earlier this month, citing leaked documents.
After a meeting with new interim Prime Minister of Libya Abdulhamid Dbeibeh in Ankara earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey and Libya were also committed to a maritime accord signed by the two countries in 2019.
Burweila believes that this statement could just be “words in the air”, as it is unclear who is running Libya’s foreign affairs.
The mandate of Libya’s interim government is clear – to make sure elections happen, to unify government institutions and exit all foreign forces, Burweila said.
The Geneva Agreement signed in October of 2019 provided for an immediate ceasefire upon signature. The two sides of the Libyan war agreed to form a force of regular soldiers from the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to resolve expected violations of the deal.
According to the Geneva Agreement, all mercenaries and foreign forces, including Russian, Syrian and Turkish, also need to leave Libya.
Touching on the role of Egypt, Burweila said the country was playing a balancing act against the Turkish presence in Libya. She said that Turkey had been unable to move forward militarily on the ground since last July because of the red lines Egypt had set.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said in July that his country could make a decisive military move into neighbouring Libya should its security come under threat, in a statement directed at Turkey.