President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisian President Kais Saied hold a joint press conference following their meeting in Tunis, Tunisia on December 25, 2019. (Yassne Gad/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Erdoğan’s Visit to Tunisia

Al-Arab, London, December 27

Many Tunisians were caught by surprise – and fear – when they learned of the unannounced visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to their country, during which he met Tunisian President Kais Saied. Tunisians are inevitably reminded of the Turkish military intervention in Libya in 2011 and in Syria over the years and are worried that similar Turkish intervention would reach their own doorstep. While it is true that the Turkish intervention in these regions was partially a result of Arab complacency and inability to solve our own crises, it is also true that Erdoğan has sought to violate the sovereignty of countries like Iraq, Syria, and Libya for his Turkey’s own benefit and national interest. There is certainly reason to believe that Ankara is turning its eyes toward the Maghreb region. As a reminder, Turkey already signed a maritime delimitation deal with Libya last month. Ankara has also declared its willingness and readiness to intervene in Libya to protect the Presidential Council led by Fayez al-Sarraj and to undermine regional initiatives led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Accordingly, Erdoğan’s visit to Libya raises many questions. This trip seems to revolve around two major dimensions: the first economic and the second political. On the economic front, Erdoğan’s visit is meant to reach agreements with the Libyan regime on the provision of oil and natural gas to Turkey. This will enable Ankara to completely free itself from its dependence on Russian oil imports, thereby improving its geopolitical power in the region. On the political front, Erdoğan is determined to protect Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based government, most notably by defending his legitimacy abroad and helping him reach a political resolution that would guarantee his political survival and, most importantly, ensure that Turkey benefits from a significant chunk of the Libyan reconstruction pie. While Europe is divided on Libya between the French and Italian approach, Erdoğan is moving quickly to set facts on the ground and ensure Turkey’s involvement in the region. The participation of Tunisia, Algeria and Qatar in the upcoming Berlin conference on Libya will allow Turkey to disproportionately control the agenda and adjust the regional balances against Egypt and the UAE. –Amin Bin Masoud (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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