The conflict in Libya, the instability in the country, the external interferences, the institutional divisions, the proliferation of a vast amount of unchecked weapons and the economy of predation continue to be a threat to international peace and security by providing fertile grounds for traffickers, armed groups and terrorist organisations. It has allowed Al Qaida and ISIS to flourish on Libyan territory and launch operations in Libya and neighbouring countries. It has facilitated a destabilising wave of illegal migration in the region and an essential deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
Despite continuous efforts by the European Union (EU) and states in the region, arms shipments, illegal immigration, and human trafficking continue to raise serious security concerns affecting the area and the southern borders of NATO. EUNAVFORMED’s operation IRINI aims to tackle arms trafficking but has not achieved its goals due to a lack of political cohesion and insufficient military capabilities. If Türkiye decides to participate in this operation, how might this impact and contribute to the ongoing efforts to resolve the situation?
Berlin International Conference on Libya
The Berlin Conference on Libya, convened at the invitation of German Chancellor Merkel, brought together on January 19, 2020, the governments of Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Türkiye, the Republic of the Congo, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. In addition to these attendees, the Conference was graced by high-level representatives from the United Nations (UN), the African Union, the EU, and the League of Arab States. The gathering aimed to address the ongoing conflict in Libya and create a conducive environment for promoting peace and stability in the region. Such a diverse array of key stakeholders was seen as a positive step towards finding a comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict.
At the Berlin Conference on Libya, participating countries agreed to comply with and implement the arms embargo imposed by United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSR) 1970 (2011), 2292 (2016), and 2473 (2019). On February 12, 2020, in UNSR 2510 (2020), the UN Security Council welcomed the Berlin Libya Conference. It endorsed its conclusions, noting that they constitute an essential element in comprehensively resolving the situation in Libya.
EU Council launched a new military operation named “IRINI” on March 31, 2020, designed to oversee the enforcement of the UN arms embargo on Libya. As a successor to its predecessor EUNAVFORMED’s operation “Sophia,” IRINI mission not only inspects vessels assumed to be carrying weapons to Libya but also supports the inspection of ships traveling off the coast of Libya- all of which comply with Resolution 2292 of the UNSC. The operation is under Italian leadership, with operational headquarters in Rome. Besides its primary objective, IRINI continues secondary duties such as training the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy and search-and-rescue missions.
Türkiye and IRINI Operation
While Türkiye participates in the Berlin conference, it faces accusations by the UN and EU for violating the arms embargo on Libya.
The country´s involvement in the Libyan conflict has come under scrutiny over accusations of violating the UN arms embargo. In 2018, the UN condemned Türkiye’s arms shipment to Libya as “extremely disconcerting”, although the Turkish Foreign Minister rejected the allegations. Subsequently, several incidents involving Turkish arms shipments to Libya were reported, including the capture of Turkish arms shipments in Libya’s port and the transfer of arms from Türkiye to Libya in violation of UN sanctions. The UN identified Türkiye, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates as the primary violators of the arms embargo.
In 2020, Türkiye prevented warships from Germany, France, and Greece, participating in the EU Operation IRINI and NATO Operation Sea Guardian, from inspecting Turkish vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms to Libya. One Turkish ship was later found to have violated the UN arms embargo, resulting in the EU sanctioning the maritime company. The Operation IRINI report disclosed in September 2021 that Türkiye had refused the inspection of Turkish ships heading to Libya six times.
Türkiye’s participation in IRINI Operation.
Following the mending of diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Türkiye has initiated a diplomatic effort to normalise its ties with Egypt, whose bilateral relations became strained due to the 2013 military coup. However, Egypt stated that to establish normal relations with Türkiye, it must withdraw its troops from Libya and cease its arms shipments to the conflict-stricken country. Türkiye is at a critical juncture in its Libya policy. Cooperation between Türkiye and the EU to stabilise Libya could positively impact regional peace and Türkiye’s relations with the EU and Egypt.
One potential area of cooperation between the country and the EU is Türkiye’s involvement in the IRINI operation. In recent years, it has developed advanced uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs). It can use its domestically produced Aksungur UAVs for effective reconnaissance and surveillance for maritime security operations in the Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. If deployed to the Vatiyye Air Base in Libya, these UAVs could carry out reconnaissance and surveillance missions for 24 hours, contributing to the effectiveness of the IRINI operation.
Additionally, the EU could provide financial support to Turkish shipyards to construct Libyan Coast Guard patrol boats, with Türkiye training the military personnel operating them. These patrol boats could then participate in the IRINI operation, allowing Türkiye to contribute to implementing the arms embargo against Libya in line with the UNSC resolutions.
Overall, cooperation between the country on the Bosporus and the EU to stabilise Libya would improve regional stability and potentially improve bilateral relations between Türkiye and Egypt.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.