Saturday (July 18th): Libya stuck in between Erdogan and Egypt

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Name? Recep Tayyip Erdoğan 

Westphalian identity? Turkish 

Age? 66 

Why is he in the news? Erdogan recently said that Egypt’s actions in Libya are “illegal” in reaction to the nation’s support for General Haftar. Turkey supports the UN-recognized Tripoli administration under PM Fayez al-Sarraj. With this support, Turkey is going against the interest of Erodgan’s sometimes (sometimes not) ally Putin.  

Why do we care? Various actors including Turkey, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and France have invested extensive resources in a civil war that each has considerable interest in the outcome (and so do we). 

Why should you care? Depends on your perspective of proxy wars. Ethically speaking, if you see proxy wars as immoral, and human suffering as a component to be avoided at all costs, then Libya fits this description. If you’re not too concerned with the morality of proxy wars, Libya is a great example to study dynamics and interests between international leaders. Erdogan’s message is a direct attack on Egypt with the potential to trigger an arms race of significant escalation on the horizon. 

Who else cares? The EU as their maritime mission has done anything but its purpose of preventing arms from entering Libya. The US’ brandishing of the EU’s mission as a failure adds a sense of urgency to European attention. Stabilising Libya could prevent a greater influx of human smuggling from Libya to Europe. 

Any further comments? Erdogan is particularly interested in supporting the UN-backed GNA to gain access to key trading routes and gas reserves Libya holds. El-Sisi wants to prevent this, given the increased stability a regime under the LNA’s Haftar would offer. Egypt’s 1,115km border with Libya means an overspill-effect of conflict is likely. Additionally, the democracy-yearning Muslim Brotherhood’s opposition of Haftar and long-term rivalry with Sisi, is a major driving force. With other large scale donors such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and France involved, a lot of resources can be mobilised; further destabilising the region.

Johanna Katherina Jakobi

Research and Analysis Intern