On February 29 this year, the Maison de la Chimie in Paris hosted a conference on the issue of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman agenda, organised by the Centre International de Géopolitique et de Prospective Analytique (GIGPA).
Among the speakers at the conference were members of the Republican Party, such as the French politician and MP Valérie Boyer, ex-president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (2004-2006) Pierre Lellouche, the writer and political observer Alexandre del Valle, the former head of the French secret service Alain Rodier, the founder of the “Independent Greeks” party and Greece’s Minister of Defence Panos Kamenos, The Cypriot politician and former Foreign Minister George Lilikas, the Egyptian politician and diplomat Amr Moussa (former Egyptian Foreign Minister and former Secretary General of the League of Arab States) and the President of the International Centre for Geopolitics and Prospective Analysis and former Tunisian Ambassador to UNESCO Mezri Haddad.
The theme of the conference was an analysis of Turkey’s recent international political activities, including the occupation of Syrian territory, the sending of jihadist mercenaries to Libya, the provocations in the Aegean Sea against Greece, fomenting civil war in Egypt by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, blackmailing Europe with migrants and trying to take control of Islam in the West. “All these facts are dangers that Turkey carries into the Mediterranean and into Europe,” the conference brochure highlighted.
The diversity of participants showed that not only Europeans but also representatives from the entire Middle East are concerned about the rise of Islamism in Turkey. In this context, experts believe it is important to pay attention not only to what is happening in Syria but also to the situation in Libya.
Only one hundred nautical miles separate the Libyan coast from the nearest EU country, Italy. In Libya, the Erdogan government continues to actively support radical Islamists while importing al-Qaeda terrorists from Syria.
Ahmed Abdallah Aboud, political advisor to Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, argued that Qatar and Turkey share responsibility for the ongoing war in Libya.
In mid-January, French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Erdogan for sending Syrian fighters to Libya and violating the UN arms embargo. Erdogan himself admitted that Turkey had sent weapons to Libya to the so-called “government of national agreement” of ruler Fayez al-Sarraj.
Alain Rodier, the former head of the French secret service, pointed out that Erdogan was a dictator and posed a threat to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Alexandre del Valle, critic of Erdogan’s post-kemalist Turkey, took a similar view. In his opinion, Turkey is fomenting anarchy in Libya, which is ultimately dangerous for Europe. Erdogan supports “the UN-recognised government” in Libya, but the Sarraj government does not even control the area bordering the capital: everything is run by groups of “militants and terrorists”.
“Two opposing projects are being pursued in Libya today: one is total anarchy and the other is the restoration of statehood. The Turkish expansion affects several countries in the Mediterranean area.
“Ankara has found a weak politician in Sarraj. There are 3 000 Islamic extremists in the region around Tripoli and several hundred Turkish military personnel present on the ground. The Libyan army is fighting against the terrorists, not only for the Libyan people as a nation, but for the whole world, which is threatened by terrorism,” explained Alexandre del Valle.
A typical example of the powerlessness of the Sarraj government is the situation of the Russian sociologist Maxim Shugaley and his interpreter Samer Hassan, according to the participants of the conference in Paris. In July 2019 they were arrested by an Islamist group on behalf of the Sarraj regime.
Moncef Djaziri, a Libyan expert, stressed that it had become very dangerous to visit those parts of Libya which are under Sarraj’s control: “I can say that Prime Minister Sarraj has no control over anything at the moment. All areas in the region are controlled by different gangs: in Tripoli and Mitiga they have completely different interests. They are all at war with each other. Tripoli and Misrata are not controlled by the Sarraj government, his government has no popular support.”
The organizer of the Paris conference, former Tunisian ambassador to UNESCO and president of the International Centre for Geopolitics and Prospective Analysis, Mezri Haddad, also pointed out in a recent article: “The opening of the Turkish-Greek border is much less dangerous than Erdogan’s hidden goal: to draw Europe into direct armed conflict with the Russian-Syrian axis.”