Former US Diplomat: Erdogan’s Mercenaries in Libya Are a Source of Great Concern – Al Marsad

Former US diplomat and academic expert on Turkish affairs, Edward Stafford, discussed in detail in a television interview the moves of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Libya and the present and future goals of his military intervention in the country to support the Government of National Accord (GNA).

(Libya, 3 September 2020) – Former US diplomat and academic expert on Turkish affairs, Edward Stafford, hosted on the USL Show on 218News, said Tuesday that Erdogan has been constantly creating crisis situations in many places to benefit and to evade consequences at the same time before he backs off a little, adding that he interferes in Libya for his own purposes.

Stafford added that Erdogan will support the United Nations process and the arms embargo on Libya as long as he believes this is in his interest, as he insists that Turkey has outstanding rights in the eastern Mediterranean because of its Mediterranean coast. “What Turkey is doing in the region should not be underestimated. Rather, it should be confronted and addressed,” said Stafford.

Regarding the Turkey-NATO relationship, Stafford indicated that Erdogan, since assuming the post of prime minister in 2003, has sought to make Turkey an outstanding member of NATO. He is counting on many NATO countries realising that Turkey’s membership is beneficial, while NATO’s Secretary-General understands that the problem is not Turkey per se, but Erdogan’s personal ambitions according to Stafford.

The former American diplomat, Edward Stafford explained that if the stakeholders in Libya agree to cancel the maritime agreement signed with Turkey, Erdogan will find a way to thwart such a decision. He said the  Turks in Libya exert a great deal of influence on the GNA.

“It is unlikely that Turkey will play a positive role in Libyan-Libyan negotiations; its role will be rather negative or disruptive,” he said, adding that Libya’s situation is incredibly complex with the presence of European Union members on opposite sides of the issue.

Stafford talked about Erdogan’s relationship with the Islamists, stressing that his mercenaries and ISIS elements, whom he sends to Libya, are a source of great concern. “Erdogan does not want Islamic militants on his borders, so he sent them to Libya in the hope of being killed at the hands of “Wagner” mercenaries,” stated the US former diplomat.

He pointed out that Erdogan’s long-term strategy is to Islamize Turkish political life and abolish the principle of religion-state separation. He also aspires to revive the Ottoman Empire, while he believes was a means to spread Islam, either through persuasion or conquest.

Edward Stafford said that Erdogan presents himself as a leader for Muslims and not only Turkey, and his strategy is based on creating crises so that Turkey appears as the prominent defender of the rights and privileges of Muslims around the world. “Muslim Brotherhood for Erdogan is not a terrorist organization. He was very happy when Mohammed Morsi took power in Egypt while El-Sisi’s rule renders him unhappy,” claimed Stafford.

The expert on Turkish affairs stated that Erdogan is very patient, very smart, and changes his tactics to fit the changing situations. Erdogan believes that Western powers are hindering Turkey from occupying its true place in the world, said Stafford.

Stafford argued that Erdogan “is manipulating Trump, but he finds it difficult in Libya with Putin, who is more cruel and skilful than he is in strategic terms.”

He added that US policy will change if Biden wins the elections, as the latter is pro the idea of the US intervention in the world, and may impose sanctions on Turkey in the S-400 case and remove it from the F-35 program.

Stafford pointed out that the moves undertaken by the US Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland, are insufficient because the Libyan situation requires greater US engagement, but the problem is that many in the United States see Libya as the problem of the European Union, which should solve it.

On the role of the United Nations in Libya, Edward Stafford indicated that Washington recognizes one Libyan side, but it is already trying to be an honest mediator between the factions, stressing that the real hope for Libya is that we have an honest mediator, expressing his hope that the ceasefire will endure and lead to some purposeful negotiations.

He stressed the need for the United States to use its good offices to support the UN efforts to reach a settlement in Libya, but he said, “There will be no opportunity to increase American support for the UN efforts until after the elections.”

He added: “It is not enough for the superpower to be a neutral party in the Libyan conflict. Libya is closer to being a European problem, but it is certainly an American problem as well, and the United States should be concerned about the impact of the Libyan problem on the region as a whole. The useful role that the United States can play is getting the Europeans to agree on a unified policy towards the Libyan issue.”

© Al-Marsad English (2020)