Fayez al-Sarraj, Libya’s prime minister, visited the Turkish capital on Thursday to hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Unlike in the past, his hosts in Ankara welcomed a joyous Libyan leader, celebrating the liberation of Tripoli, including its international airport.
In Libya, the Government of National Accord's (GNA) forces continue to take control of critical locations around the country's capital Tripoli from militias loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar. After the GNA's capture of the strategic al-Watiya air base two weeks ago, it managed to then take control of Tripoli International Airport. The seizure of the airport and the surrounding areas in the south and east of the city are critical achievements for the GNA. Haftar's forces are withdrawing to eastern and southern parts of the capital after their defeats. His militias also withdrew from Tarhuna, their last remaining stronghold in the western part of Libya. At the same time, a tacit agreement from the government's side was demonstrated as GNA troops did not attack the withdrawing forces. This handling of the Tarhuna withdrawal by the GNA and the pro-Haftar elements is a diplomatically promising step toward political talks.
The title of my last Daily Sabah column from last year was: “Turkey in 2019: From an Emerging Economy to an Emerging Power.” The article showed how, over the course of just one year, Turkey proved that its economy was robust enough to resist the sustained economic and political attacks inflicted upon it over the last several years and that its military is strong enough to influence global multilateral platforms and sit at the negotiation table as an equal partner with some of the most influential global powers, including the United States and Russia.
Turkey took three crucial steps in late 2019 to tilt the balance of power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Those military and diplomatic measures, which the country took in the Mediterranean theater to strengthen its hand at the negotiating table, indicate that the Libya question will fare as prominently in Turkey's agenda as the Syria file.