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Historic Turk-Soviet conflict in Eastern Mediterranean: Libya pays price

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Opinion |

Libya’s call seeking military assistance from Turkey and the latter’s prompt announcement on Thursday of its readiness to meet the request as early as next month is no doubt a carefully choreographed sequence of events.

Tripoli and Ankara are moving in tandem. The day before the Turkish announcement, President Recep Erdogan made a ‘secret’ day-long visit to Tunis to streamline a regional axis comprising Turkey, Qatar, Tunisia and Algeria over the Libyan situation. From the Turkish perspective, if Libya falls under dictatorship (as in Egypt), a similar threat would arise to democratization (‘Arab Spring’) in Tunisia as well.

Turkey and Libya are taking care that they have regional support while countering the renegade general Khalifa Haftar’s offensive to capture Tripoli. Haftar has the backing of Russia, Egypt, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, which is a formidable combination.

Moscow holds an ‘Idlib card’. The point is, it is highly improbable that Moscow would withdraw support for Haftar

Moscow holds an ‘Idlib card’. The point is, it is highly improbable that Moscow would withdraw support for Haftar

Erdogan has openly alleged that thousands of mercenaries from Russia and Sudan are operating on Haftar’s side. The UAE keeps a base in Libya from where drones operate. Effectively, Erdogan has highlighted Moscow’s doublespeak on ‘regime change’.

The Russian predicament comes out clearly in the defensive remarks made by the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in Moscow on Thursday. Peskov was hard-pressed to give a cogent explanation for the Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria. (Washington has alleged that Moscow has also lately deployed regular troops to Libya.) All he’d say was that “citizens of different countries act as mercenaries in various parts of the world” and it is impossible for a country to control the movement of all its citizens. Just not good enough.

Prima facie, if Erdogan deploys troops to Libya following parliamentary approval on........

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