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Erdoğan ‘freaked out,’ left Libya conference early after military intervention proposal rejected

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the biggest loser at the Jan. 19 Berlin conference on Libya, according to an op-ed by Cengiz Çandar published Wednesday on the Al-Monitor website.

World powers and other countries with interests in Libya met in Berlin on Sunday to discuss ways to end the long-running conflict in the oil-rich North African country.

A report in the Moscow-based Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper cited by Çandar and headlined “Erdogan freaked out, left the conference on Libya in Berlin early,” said that Russian President “Vladimir Putin can breathe freely: The participants in the Berlin conference on Libya did not support Erdogan’s proposal for military intervention in the Libya conflict, to be carried [out] by the Turkish army.”

The newspaper said attempts to bring together the Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Sarraj and the Libyan opposition led by strongman Khalifa Haftar would continue, adding: “And any military assistance and outside interference is strictly prohibited. As a result, Erdogan freaked out and left the conference ahead of schedule.”

Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) aims to capture the capital, Tripoli, through the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russian mercenaries and African troops.

Turkey supports Haftar’s opponents, the Tripoli-based, internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by al-Sarraj and has dispatched military advisers and trainers to help the GNA.

The op-ed cited Moskovsky Komsomolets as writing: “As it turned out, the Turkish leader left the conference ahead of schedule, when it became clear that his proposals for armed intervention in the Libyan conflict did not find support from other participants.” The paper said that at the airport “The president of Turkey looked nervous and gloomy.”

In an article published on the politico.eu news website on the eve of the Libya peace conference in Berlin, Erdoğan said the EU’s failure to adequately support the GNA would be “a betrayal of its own core values, including democracy and human rights.”

“Recall that on the eve of the conference, Erdogan published an article calling on Europe to authorize a military operation against the Libyan opposition, trusting the Turkish army,” said Moskovsky Komsomolets, quoting Erdogan as writing, “Keeping in mind that Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya, the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance. … Europe can count on Turkey — an old friend and loyal ally — to achieve that goal.” 

The world powers gathered in Berlin on Sunday instead agreed to respect a much-violated arms embargo, hold off on military support to the warring parties and push them to reach a full ceasefire.

Erdoğan described Haftar as “a warlord who seeks to carry out a coup d’état” in Libya who enjoys support from “the anti-democratic governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

“Ironically, Erdogan has categorized his own autocratic government as one of those liberal-democratic regimes of Europe,” Çandar pointed out in his op-ed. 

The passage of constitutional amendments in an April 2017 referendum enabled the establishment of an executive presidency in Turkey, giving extraordinary powers to the head of state and bestowing on Erdoğan the ability to dismiss ministers and parliament, issue decrees, declare a state of emergency and appoint figures to key positions, including the judiciary, in effect setting up what has been called “one-man rule” in the country.

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