Ankara’s intervention in Libya fueled a fresh debate in European and Middle Eastern capitals on Turkey's role in the world. Reflecting the view that Turkey has evolved into a more powerful player, that discussion has two dimensions: First, it concentrates on the concrete shifts in the balance of power in Syria, Libya and the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, it is a propaganda war with lots of speculation about "real" intentions. It would be impossible to make sense of Turkey’s most recent moves, capabilities and objectives without distinguishing those two aspects.
Libya has become a major focal point of the power struggle in the Eastern Mediterranean. That country’s future is directly related to energy politics, European security and North Africa’s stability. The United States Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) most recent announcement about Russian aircraft bombing Libyan government forces in Sirte demonstrated how closely Washington is watching the Russian presence in Libya – despite major distractions like the upcoming presidential election.
Tensions have once again peaked between Turkey and Greece over a number of traditional disputes involving the Aegean and Cyprus, as well as over recent disagreements regarding maritime jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean. Athens has attempted to invalidate Turkey’s November 2019 agreement with Libya to limit Turkish control over area in the Eastern Mediterranean spanning to the Gulf of Antalya. Athens believes it can pursue an unjust and maximalist policy with support from France, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Greek Cypriots. Given the recent dispute over the Aegean continental shelf, the Eastern Mediterranean has emerged as the main platform for a renewed rivalry between Turkey and Greece.
As Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) attempts to liberate Sirte and Jufra, diplomatic talks are regaining momentum. The latest move came from Egypt, where President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi met putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar and Libyan politician Aguila Saleh before unveiling the Cairo Declaration. That document relates to a cease-fire, a road map for political reconciliation, the establishment of the Presidential Council and elections within 18 months. Although Russia and the U.S. endorsed the call for a cease-fire, the Cairo Declaration, which exclusively deals with eastern Libya and intends to keep Haftar in business, does not create common ground or reconcile other stakeholders, including Turkey. Hence Ankara’s description of the declaration as "stillborn."