The showdown between Libya’s two rival prime ministers — Fathi Bashagha, appointed by the eastern-based parliament, and Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, the head of the Tripoli-based government who refuses to cede power — is pushing Turkey to play more openly and assertively in the conflict.
Turkey, which maintains military and militia forces in Libya, has been irked by Bashagha’s teaming up with eastern forces, namely Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the Libyan National Army, and Aquila Saleh, the head of the House of Representatives, to unseat Dbeibah’s interim government. Ankara had worked closely with Bashagha during his term as interior minister in the previous interim government in Tripoli. But for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Bashagha government under the influence of Hifter and Saleh, who have fiercely opposed Turkey’s military presence in Libya, might mean losing the assurances that Dbeibah offers. Still, Erdogan keeps the door open to Bashagha while maintaining support for Dbeibah’s Government of National Unity (GNU). Though Turkey is wary of provoking clashes at a critical juncture in Libya, the fact remains that its military, intelligence and diplomatic presence in Tripoli affects the equilibrium and makes the playground safer for Dbeibah.