Turkey changed the course of the war in Libya. But it didn’t do it for free. Two years back, General Khalifa Haftar-led eastern forces had made it to the suburbs of Tripoli, threatening the last stronghold of the Government of National Accord. There the both sides, who have been fighting the civil war for nearly a decade, stood at stalemate. When Turkey decided to support the Islamist forces that largely make-up GNA, it changed the tide of war.
Over the past few weeks, Turkey has been sending in its own troops, mercenary forces from Syria, arms and other resources to Libya to repel General Haftar’s forces, who were pushed east; they are now battling it in the city of Sirte. The war that seemed days from being over has now been extended largely due to the Turkish intervention. Already Turkey has been exacting its price for it by signing agreements with GNA that give it larger control over the Mediterranean waters, much to the chagrin of its European neighbours.
Now a business delegation is set to visit Tripoli in the coming weeks to chart out a plan for how Turkish companies can help rebuild the country that hasn’t seen stability since 2011. Turkey has not been shy about its interests in several Libyan industries like oil exploration, construction, banking and manufacturing. Their first task would be crafting a plan to meet Libya’s energy needs and a Turkish power company is in talks with Tripoli to sell 1,000 megawatts of electricity.
Next would be the infrastructure. Companies from Turkey have already been active in Libya since before and during the war. There is a huge backlog of building contracts, to the tune of $16 billion, and the priority would be to complete these. There will be an effort to set up a banking system and a regulator and increase manufacturing and trade capabilities in food, medicine and other goods.
But Turkey will be proceeding with caution so as to not overextend itself. The economic situation at home isn’t great and Turkey is just a couple of well-placed European restrictions away from the precipice. So it wouldn’t be keen on investing too much yet, more importantly without a decisive victory in Libya. There needs to be stability for such investments to take root and yield results – in hard dollars or soft power – and right now they are in danger of being lost in the conflict.
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