Enemy of my enemy is my friend? Greek ‘forces’ ready to deploy to Libya after Turkish troops set out to reinforce Haftar rivals
Just days after Turkey vowed “to teach a lesson” to Libya’s strongman General Haftar, Greece – still at odds with Ankara – told him that it could send in some “forces,” tasked with observing a truce and “removal of mercenaries.”
Nikos Dendias, Greece’s Foreign Minister, had “a long conversation” with General Khalifa Haftar, who paid a low-key visit to Athens ahead of a Libya peace conference in Berlin. “We want a ceasefire, the removal of mercenaries and the cancellation of illegal agreements,” Dendias said without elaborating.
The chief diplomat told Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army (LNA), that Greece was ready to help “with [deploying] forces” that would monitor the ceasefire with the rival Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
“All of this is a contribution to the future of the Libyan people. We want it to be a modern democratic country,” Dendias proclaimed.
Υποδέχθηκα πριν λίγο στην Αθήνα τον επικεφαλής του Λιβυκού Εθνικού Στρατού (LNA), Στρατάρχη Khalifa Haftar. pic.twitter.com/nm6ZguPATy— Nikos Dendias (@NikosDendias) January 16, 2020
Ankara already sent troops to support the internationally-recognized Tripoli government. Upping the ante, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to teach “putschist” Haftar a “lesson” if he doesn’t hold up his offensive against the GNA.
At this stage, both Libyan rivals are sticking to a ceasefire jointly brokered by Turkey and Russia, although they continue to blame each other for violating its terms.Although carefully worded and evasive, the Greek minister’s remarks may add some geopolitical flavor to the Libyan conflict and beyond.
Turkey has a number of territorial disputes with its NATO neighbor Greece, and both countries consistently engage in close-call encounters both at sea and in the air, not to mention historic grievances over Cyprus and other issues.Also on rt.com Turkey will not refrain from teaching ‘putschist Haftar’ lesson if he keeps attacking Libya’s government & people – Erdogan
Greece has been remarkably pro-active on the diplomatic front, threatening that it will veto any European peace deal on Libya unless a Turkey-GNA agreement on maritime borders is annulled.
Athens maintains that the deal, which sets out oil and gas exploration areas in the Mediterranean between Libya and Turkey, is “unacceptable and illegal” because it ignores Greece’s own claims in the area, as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis put it.
Greek involvement empowers Haftar, weakens Germany's stance at Berlin talks
Greece will still affect the negotiating process despite not being at the peace summit in Berlin, Grigory Lukyanov, senior lecturer at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics, told RT. And Athens shouldn't complain about not being invited since "showed absolutely no interest in Libya until recently.
"But now Athens' involvement in the crisis sees "the number of countries, who actively oppose any Turkish actions in Libya increasing and, because of that, support for Haftar is growing." Greece has already expanded its contacts with UAE, Jordan and Egypt, with Lebanon, which is also interested in gas exploration in the Mediterranean, likely to join the pack too, he said.
For the conference it means that Haftar will feel a lot more confident, and the positions of Germany, which wants some kind of agreement achieved between the warring sides in Libya, will be weakened.
EU has been unable to form a unified stance on the Libyan crisis, and that will be even harder to do with the Greek-Turkish strife added to the mix, Lukyanov pointed out.
Relations between Athens and Ankara, both NATO states, have always been "very difficult," but they're "especially bad now after Greece refused to hand back the Turkish officers, who fled the country after a failed military coup attempt in 2016."
Lukyanov says it's understandable that Athens treated the military cooperation and maritime boundaries deal between Ankara and GNA as a "hostile move," since it threatens its economic security and affects national pride.
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