Erdogan in bid to drag Algeria into Libyan war

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech at an event in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (Presidential Press Service via AP)
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Updated 31 December 2019

Erdogan in bid to drag Algeria into Libyan war

ANKARA: The Turkish Navy is set to dispatch two frigates to Algeria to start joint maritime exercises.

With regional tensions simmering in the eastern Mediterranean, experts have drawn attention to the timing and objectives of the move considering Algeria neighbors war-torn Libya from the east.

The exercise not only coincides with the 500th year of commemoration of Oruc Reis, an Ottoman governor in North Africa who discovered the island of Djerba in Tunisia, but also Ankara’s surprise introduction of visa-free travel for Algerians.

The two frigates are expected to be forwarded between Jan. 7 and 10. During the dispatch, Algerian naval forces will also receive training from their Turkish counterparts.

The Tunisian presidency recently denied claims that the country would join an alliance with Turkey and Algeria in resolving the Libyan crisis.

Last month, Turkey and Libya signed a military cooperation deal and another on the delimitation of maritime borders, under which Turkey got the green light to deploy its own troops at the request of Libya’s government.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shaking hands with Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), during their meeting in Istanbul. (File/AFP)

Syrian fighters were also dispatched to support Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, to fight against General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which control the country’s east.

Algeria’s newly elected President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has recently chaired a top security meeting to discuss contingency plans for a possible Turkish military intervention in neighboring Libya.

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune puts on the presidential collar of the National Order of Merit, during the formal swearing-in ceremony in the capital Algiers on December 19, 2019. (File/AFP)

A parliamentary vote in Turkey is expected for early January on deploying troops to Libya, including formation of an elite Libyan force to respond directly to threats, as well as allocation of weapons, conducting of joint exercises and exchange of counter-terror intelligence.

Yahia Zoubir, director of research in geopolitics at the Kedge Business School in Marseille and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said the situation in Libya is worrisome for Algeria.

“The naval exercise must have been planned earlier. While Oruc Reis is part of Algeria’s history and pride, the Turkish military presence in Libya isn’t welcome for Algerians because Ankara is a member of NATO,” he told Arab News.

Zoubir said that Algerians see foreign presence in the region with suspicion and believe that it is part of a plan to destabilize the region for access to oil and gas.

“There is no doubt that the Algerian military is going to strengthen its borders with Libya and Tunisia, and will continue calling for a political, negotiated solution among Libyans,” he added.

Algerian citizens aged under 18 and over 65 were recently granted entry permits to Turkey with a presidential decree.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a visit to Tunis on Dec. 25 for talks with his counterpart President Kais Saied.

Tunisian President Kais Saied meeting with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Tunis. (File/AFP)

Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior research fellow from the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said the Turkey-GNA maritime border delimitation agreement has made the survival of the GNA’s Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj critical for Turkey and Ankara is hoping for Tunisian and Algerian assistance to support him.

“Moreover, it seems that Erdogan’s surprise visit to Tunisia last week did not bring with it the desired result for Ankara in the context of Libya, so this potentially makes Algeria even more important for Turkey,” she told Arab News.

French FM urges Iraq to keep away from regional tensions

Updated 1 min 56 sec ago

French FM urges Iraq to keep away from regional tensions

  • Baghdad “should dissociate itself from regional tensions,” Le Drian warned after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart
  • The world should not drop its guard against Daesh, Le Drian said

BAGHDAD: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Baghdad on Thursday to “dissociate” itself from boiling regional tensions, hinting at dissatisfaction with unilateral Iranian and American strikes on Iraqi territory.
Iraq has been caught for years in the power struggle between its two main allies Washington and Tehran, but has had to walk an increasingly fine line since 2018, when the US began a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
In January, a US drone strike on Baghdad killed top Iranian and Iraqi officials, and Tehran retaliated with strikes against American troops based in western Iraq.
Baghdad “should dissociate itself from regional tensions,” Le Drian warned after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein.
France has been a top member of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh, which Iraq declared defeated in late 2017 after three years of warfare.
“The world should not drop its guard against the Islamic State group,” Le Drian said.
“The coalition’s aim at its core is to fight IS, and it should for no reason be derailed from this central mission,” he added.
His comments appeared to hint at widespread frustration among Western diplomats at Washington’s unilateral strikes against Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq.
They fear that these attacks would prompt a backlash against the coalition as a whole, not just US soldiers.
Following the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in January, Iraq’s parliament voted to oust all foreign troops.
Le Drian is the first Western diplomat to visit Baghdad since Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi took office in May, although he has traveled to Iraq on many occasions.
He is also expected to meet Al-Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Saleh on his one-day visit.
He said France “backed (Al-Kadhimi’s) first decisions,” including efforts to fight government corruption and rein in rogue groups firing rockets at foreign troops and diplomats.
France would also facilitate $1.1 billion for “major projects in construction, transportation, energy and water,” Le Drian announced.
Iraq’s public infrastructure has been worn down by years of warfare and poor investment, but low oil prices have forced it to cut state spending on improving services.