Aref Nayed: Erdogan Thinks He is Sultan Abdul Hamid and Libya is an Ottoman Province Thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood – Al Marsad

Dr Aref Ali Nayed gave an interview on AlArabiya’s Panorama programme on Thursday 11 December 2019 on the Erdogan’s threat to send Turkish soldiers to Libya to support the GNA. Here is the full translation of the transcript of the interview:

INTERVIEWER: What do we need to know about the Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties, Turkey and the GNA?

DR AREF ALI NAYED: First and foremost, this memorandum is a dubious agreement, I mean, they called it a memorandum of understanding in order to suggest that it does not need ratification byf the Libyan House of Representatives. This argument is quite deceptive because Erdogan himself presented it to the Turkish parliament for approval. According to the Constitutional Declaration, which is the existing Libyan constitution, and in accordance with the provisions of the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement, such agreements must be presented to the Libyan House of Representatives for endorsement as it is the only elected body and the legal parliament recognized by the United Nations and the entire world. In return, half of the Presidential Council’s members either resigned or boycotted it, which practically means that the Presidential Council does not exist, besides the fact that any decisions taken by the Presidential Council require unanimity.

Consequently, the Presidential Council is a deficient body that has never won the vote of confidence from the Parliament. The Government of National Accord of Fayez al-Sarraj has failed twice to gain confidence, and has never been sworn in before the Parliament. Without approval from the Parliament, it lacks legal and constitutional legitimacy required to conclude such agreements. Therefore, name it as you wish; a memorandum of understanding; an agreement. In fact, this is a suspicious, illegitimate, incomplete and unapproved matter by the Libyan Parliament, which is the only legitimate legislature in the country; legitimacy comes from the Libyan people who elected this parliament.

INTERVIEWER: But the President of the Presidential Council, Mr. Fayez Al-Sarraj, is globally dealt with as legitimate, officially received in other countries, and he signs agreements as well. What will prevent him from implementing this agreement?

DR AREF ALI NAYED: Unfortunately, in 2015, instead of standing in the face of the militant groups that took control in 2014 of the capital, the Central Bank of Libya, and the livelihoods of the Libyan people, and instead of standing in solidarity with the elected Parliament, the international community appeased the Islamists and brokered the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement. The dilemma is that this agreement has never been implemented because they [the international community] selectively chose to recognize al-Sarraj while the agreement stipulates that the Libyan House of Representatives is the sole legislative authority in Libya.

The agreement also stipulates that members of the Presidential Council unanimously issue and take decisions. It also provides for the release of political prisoners, and many provisions that have never been implemented in the first place, including the fair distribution of Libya’s wealth for the benefit of the Libyan people. This Islamist group that has acquired the Libyan Central Bank monopolizes the entire oil revenue to this day, and has utilized these financial resources as an ATM machine to fund terrorist activities not only in Libya but throughout the region.

Yes, there is an international recognition of the Presidential Council, but there is also an international recognition of the Libyan House of Representatives; the legislative authority that must ratify these agreements. In my view, this strange and reckless measure, that has been taken with Erdogan, made Italy change its position. Al-Sarraj has lost Italy and the entire European Union. Even those who were sympathetic with the Tripoli-based GNA are now recalculating their positions, because the international recognition of al-Sarraj was given as a kind of achieving a pan-Libya reconciliation, harmony, and social coherence, but Fayez al-Sarraj and company have become not only a tool in the Libyan conflict, but a tool in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood in both Tripoli and Istanbul.

Furthermore, al-Sarraj, with the international legitimacy given to him in the Skhirat agreement, has also become a tool in Erdogan’s hand to achieve his strange ambitions, as if Erdogan believed that he was Sultan Abdul Hamid II and that Libya’s capital is still the Eyalet of Tripolitania. Turkey is not the Ottoman Empire any more, and Libya is no longer an Eyalet in the defunct Ottoman Empire.

INTERVIEWER: When someone speaks with the Turks about this issue, they say that there is no Turkish ambitions in Libya; just common interests. They also sign agreements with the United States and the Russian Federation, in the same way the Libyan National Army deals with Russia or Russia deals with the LNA. I mean, the other party has also the right to engage with any other country. The other party chose to deal with Turkey, I mean, they exclude the idea that Turkey was a colonial country.

DR AREF ALI NAYED: For five centuries, unfortunately, the Ottoman Turks forced the Libyan tribes to pay the so-called Al-Meri, or the taxes, for the Turks and it was collected by tax collectors dedicated for this purpose. Unfortunately, this militant group has been exerting its control over the Central Bank of Libya since 2011, not just in 2014 and 2015. The Libyan state funds are deposited in Turkish banks. Do you know that billions of dollars of Libyan money are deposited in the Turkish Agricultural Bank, Ziraat Bankası, and in the Turkish Central Bank, as if they are using the Libyan treasury as Bayt-ul-mal of the Muslims, as if the Libyan state funds is a Treasury of the Ottoman Wali of Tripolitania and given to the Ottoman Sultan.

The Libyan people categorically reject the return to such enslavement. Unfortunately, this Muslim Brotherhood group that exists in Tripoli, which control the capabilities of Libya and deposit the state funds in Turkish banks, and then they say there are no financial ambitions; of course there are financial ambitions; it is all about greed, it is all about looting public treasury.

I do not say that Erdogan is Turkey because Turkey is greater and far more noble than Erdogan. The Turkish people have expressed their will in the Istanbul municipal elections. The Turkish people expelled the representatives of the Justice and Construction Party from the leadership of Istanbul, which represents the true capital of Turkey. We respect and appreciate the Turkish people, as the Turks revere the Libyan people. Our problem is with Erdogan and specifically with Erdogan’s Brotherhood tendencies, and his full support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

INTERVIEWER: The focal point here is that there are terrorist groups that have emerged from within these Islamist currents that exist in Libya as you call them, and posed a threat to Egypt where a number of terrorist operations took place there. However, the world seems to be turning a blind eye to categorize them as terrorists or recognize that they are the incubator from which the terrorists emerge. They interact with them as an authority in one way or another as long as Fayez al-Sarraj deals with them, so not everyone deals with Haftar for example, nor the Libyan National Army, nor is there any international recognition or armament of the LNA, as if the international community is turning its back on this divisiveness in Libya despite the presence of Ghassan Salamé.

DR AREF ALI NAYED: The problematic issue started with the instatement of Barack Obama’s White House Administration and his State Department Secretary, Hillary Clinton. The foundation of the issue is due to a mistaken belief that started in America in the eighties and nineties of the Twentieth Century, that the Muslim Brotherhood, as a moderate Islam group, can stand between the world and terrorism. The fact of the matter is that this group is the bridge of terrorism; it is rather the basis of terrorism. There is no terrorist whose intellectual origins are not traced back to Sayyid Qutb’s book, Milestones, or to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. This issue began to collapse, especially with the advent of Donald Trump’s administration in America and the vision became clear.

In the past few days, we noticed strange things happening. A free and noble Libyan pilot fell in captivity of an armed group that took selfies and mocking photos of the captured pilot in an official headquarters bearing the insignia of the GNA Ministry of the Interior, in an attempt to humiliate him. Fayez al-Sarraj issued a statement to congratulate these people. When we look at those who apprehended the pilot, we find that they are wanted by the Public Prosecutor’s Bureau of Tripoli, Mr. Al-Siddiq al-Sour. They are wanted on charges related to ISIS. This means that there are ISIS operatives employed by the Ministry of Interior headed by Bashagha and Al-Sarraj who congratulates them on their heinous act. Now the facts are becoming clear to people.

Likewise, Khaled Al-Mishri, the Chairman of the High Council of State, which is a consultative entity according to the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement; and does not have any legislative powers, conducted an inspection tour in Zawiya, during which he visited the house of one of the most notorious ringleaders of fuel smuggling and human trafficking mafia in Libya, who is also sanctioned by the United Nations.

INTERVIEWER: Does the International Envoy know about these matters?

DR AREF ALI NAYED: I am in constant communication with the Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya and his deputy and the political office of the UNSMIL, and we also brief all countries on these matters to inform them of the reality of the situation. Also, the diplomatic corps in Libya have these reports that are published to show people that the problem since 2014 is the monopoly, by militant terrorist groups, of the capabilities of the Libyan people, and their ongoing control over the Central Bank of Libya. This is the fundamental aspect of the dilemma.

INTERVIEWER: They (these groups) helped the Presidential Council to enter Tripoli and it still depends on these groups. When we ask them about it they say that they are part of the GNA Army, a recognized army like the Libyan National Army of Haftar. The idea is that Libya is heading towards more escalation, the Libyan National Army threatened to target any Turkish ships approaching Libyan territorial waters. Are we witnessing further escalation with a country the size of Turkey, or there will be diplomatic efforts or a rationale by Erdogan?

DR AREF ALI NAYED: It might be a blessing in disguise because what Erdogan did could lead to speeding up the solution, God willing, because with this stupid step, which is by all means an embodiment of international political stupidity, he has utterly antagonized the European Union whose member states now know the reality of the situation in Libya, and the real motives behind the limitless support given by the Central Bank of Libya to the Turkish Central Bank and the Turkish currency. The picture now has become crystal clear to the world.

I believe this is the beginning of relief rather than the beginning of sorrows, and I think that the issue will not escalate any further because Turkey cannot confront all the countries of the region. In addition to the Egyptian military exercises, there are now tripartite naval exercises in the East Mediterranean involving the French, the Italians and the Greeks. The United States has also informed the Turks and the Russians that this is an unacceptable recklessness. This impulsiveness and this daringness on the Libyan people, as if the Libyan people are still subordinate to the Ottoman Sultan.

INTERVIEWER: The problem is not the Ottoman Sultan, the problem is in this part of the Libyan people that gives the Ottoman Sultan this right.

DR AREF ALI NAYED: Unfortunately, if we thoroughly examine what is going on, we will find that those who gave Erdogan these issues and co-signed with him are in fact the Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately, I am sad that Fayez Al-Sarraj, who is from a decent and virtuous family, dares to enter into such agreements, as well as Muhammad El Tahir Siala, who is from a decent, virtuous family of Turkish origin, but they are Libyan families. I do not think that they, or their children, or grandchildren, will be honoured when their names are written down in history as the ones who renewed Turkish colonialism in Libya. This will not be accepted by anyone.

Libyan tribes said their word in press statements issued last few days. The Libyan people are inherently free people. The Ottomans stayed in Libya for 500 years, but they were 500 years of wars in which the Libyan people resisted paying the unjust taxes to the Ottoman governors.

INTERVIEWER: The Libyan people have been suffering since 2011 until now. We do not want this suffering to continue for 500 years or even 5 years to come. Last week in Rome, Mr. Ghassan Salamé expressed his optimism regarding the forthcoming Berlin Conference on Libya. Will we see something coming out of that conference that would solve the Libyan crisis?

DR AREF ALI NAYED: I look at the Berlin Conference as a positive event. God willing, there is a kind of negotiation, but the Berlin conference does not have Libyan participants; a meeting in the absence of the Libyans is a huge mistake. We have told the UNSMIL and several countries, and even the Germans, we told them how can Libyans be absent from a conference that is supposed to address the Libyan conflict; it is a big mistake, but maybe this issue is related to arrangements among states. What I want to stress is that the solution is in the hands of the Libyan people.

Now people wonder when the army will enter Tripoli? The Libyan army is in Tripoli, the Libyan army today is on the outskirts of the Abu Salim neighborhood, the Libyan army is stationed east of the capital and west of the capital, it is inside the capital today, which makes the Libyan army against the use of its full-fledged military force to storm the city; it is all relevant to LNA’s keenness to preserve the safety and wellbeing of the civilian population.

I believe that inside Tripoli there are young people who fight only because they fear for their neighbourhood, or feel that someone from outside their region wants to enter their city. There are youths who do not adhere to certain ideologies, and the Libyan National Army has already invited these young people to lay down their weapons and support the LNA because it is the army of the entire Libyan people. This is not the army of Cyrenaica, or the army of the eastern region of Libya. It is comprised of soldiers from all Libyan towns; from Tarhouna, Wirshafana, Bani Walid, Tripoli, Zawiya, Surman, the Nafusa Mountain, the South, and from all other parts of Libya.

This is the Libyan National Army that is affiliated with the Libyan parliament elected by the Libyan people. I believe that we may soon see arrangements with some of these youth groups inside Tripoli to facilitate a smooth entry of Libyan National Army into the capital, in a way that preserves civilians, and, God Willing, will coincide with the withdrawal of recognition from the Presidential Council, whether at the level of the League of Arab States, the African Union, the European Union, or the United Nations, which will happen soon.

By 17 December 2019, Fayez al-Sarraj will complete four years of the Presidential Council’s rule. According to the Skhirat Libyan Political Agreement, the term of the Government of National Accord, after winning the vote of confidence by the Libyan House of Representatives, was to be for one year, renewable for an additional year only. The GNA has never been sworn in, or won the vote of confidence at the parliament.

The fourth anniversary of the GNA rule is approaching in spite of the official expiry of its mandate two years ago. The GNA has absolutely no legal or constitutional basis whatsoever to stay in power. Accordingly, the Libyan House of Representatives has the right now to support its incumbent Libyan Interim Government, which is the one that has won its vote of confidence.

INTERVIEWER: Your Excellency, Ambassador Aref Ali Nayed, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies, thank you very much for being with us in the Panorama TV programme.  

DR AREF ALI NAYED: Thank you.

© Al Marsad English (2019)