Angela Merkel invited to the Federal Chancellery for the Libya Summit. If things go well, a peace process for Libya could start today. The country is in a civil war. Above all, two parties are fighting: the government recognized by the United Nations under Fajis al-Sarradsch and his opponent General Chalifa Haftar. Both are supported by a number of states, which is why there is talk of a proxy war in Libya. Recep Tayyip is therefore also expected in Berlin Erdoğan, who supports the government in Tripoli.
Erdoğan has also signed a controversial maritime law agreement with the Libyan government to give Turkey more power in the Mediterranean. The Turkish President's interference in Libya is his latest attempt to expand Turkey's global influence. Will he succeed? About it and about whether the EU Erdoğan has underestimated so far, speaks Kristian Brakel in an interview with ZEIT ONLINE. Brakel is a political analyst and head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Istanbul.
ZEIT ONLINE: It is eagerly awaited whether a ceasefire will be negotiated at the Libya Summit in Berlin – provided that Prime Minister Fajis al-Sarradsch and his opponent General Chalifa Haftar agree. In the meantime, however, Turkey has also played an important role. How much weight does Recep Tayyip have? Erdoğan at the negotiating table?
Kristian Brakel: The Turkish president is one of the central figures. Due to Turkey’s military engagement in Libya the president has cards in his hand that Europeans don't have.
ZEIT ONLINE: Why is Libya suddenly a hot topic for Erdoğan?
Brakel: It's about the big question about the new security architecture in the Mediterranean. The natural gas deposits around Cyprus play a role here. Almost all neighboring countries have teamed up to exploit them – but they do not want the Turkey, Erdoğan then allied itself with Libya and enormously expanded Turkey's sovereign rights in the Mediterranean. This is legally very controversial.
ZEIT ONLINE: Is Erdoğan only about natural gas?
Brakel: No. With the advance in Libya, he also wants to push back regional competitors; above all the Emiratis, Egyptians and Saudis, who are increasingly trying to influence Libya and the region and who see Turkey as an opponent.
ZEIT ONLINE: Won't Erdoğan get bogged down? After all, the Turkish president is now one foot in an explosive proxy war.
Brakel: There is a certain foreign policy risk. Domestically there are no elections. In addition, many Turks do not support the deployment in Libya, but at the moment they are simply much more interested in the refugee question in their own country and the badly hit economy in Turkey. I don't think that this issue is falling on his feet in domestic politics right now.
In addition, he does not sell the engagement in Libya as a combat mission for Turkish soldiers. Instead, the government in Tripoli is only being helped in the fight against General Haftar with military advisers. Erdoğan, however, sent Syrian rebels to Libya, who were already involved in the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria. In this way, Turkey can rely on combat units without taking any domestic political risk. Because if Syrian militia officers die in Libya, no one in Turkey will cry a tear.
ZEIT ONLINE: The Federal Government emphasizes that it has been campaigning for a peace process in Libya for months. It was only through Turkey's advance that a kind of standstill occurred; Prime Minister Al-Sarradsch and General Haftar traveled to Moscow a few days ago to negotiate a ceasefire.
Brakel: That's true. Turkey is violating a UN embargo by delivering arms to Tripoli. As far as the conflict between Al-Sarradsch and Haftar is concerned, however, the Turkish commitment has actually progressed at the moment. Before, Haftar had been unwilling to consider a ceasefire at all. So you can see Erdoğan's advance positively. But that does not mean that the Turkish interests behind it are legitimate.
ZEIT ONLINE: Erdoğan has destroyed the Kurdish dream of Rojava (Western Kurdistan) in northern Syria, and there will probably be no large-scale gas sales in the Mediterranean without his consent. In the conflict in Libya, he now has more influence than Germany or the EU. Has the West underestimated Erdoğan?