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Erdogan weighs next moves in Libya after Sarraj's departure

Ankara is keen to preserve its influence over the Tripoli government and several figures with close ties to Turkey are eyeing the prime minister’s post after the impending departure of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L) hold a joint press conference at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on June 4, 2020. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP) (Photo by ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Anyone who might have thought that Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is a monolithic and politically coherent entity has had much food for thought since political rivalries in Tripoli boiled over in late August and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj announced his surprising plan to step down by the end of October.

The in-house wrangling came to a head Aug. 29 as Sarraj suspended Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who wields command over a Misratan militia aligned with the GNA, while Bashagha was visiting Turkey, the GNA’s chief foreign backer, together with Khaled al-Mishri, the head of the High Council of State. Mishri’s almost three-hour meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Bashagha’s meeting with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar were believed to have particularly irked the GNA premier. Sarraj suspended Bashagha, holding him responsible for a violent crackdown on street protests, while an ensuing flurry of military activity in Tripoli and Misrata sparked talk of a possible coup against Sarraj. Though things seemed to cool down when Bashagha was reinstated in early September, the power struggle showed how fragile the GNA is.

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