ISIS's seizing the Turkish Consulate in Mosul and taking hostage scores of consulate personnel and Turkish truck drivers was the most dramatic assault ever against a Turkish diplomatic mission and its citizens. Sadly, Turkish missions and citizens have been becoming targets of multitude of quarters, the latest being in Libya when 250 Turks working there were given a 48-hour ultimatum to leave the country.
Retired Libyan Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who has rebelled against the government and already controls the eastern regions of the country, has accused the Turks and Qataris of acting against his rule and engaging in espionage. Newspapers in Benghazi reported that people have been angered by Turkey’s attitude, therefore Turks had to leave.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called these claims “baseless and wrong” and said the legitimate government in Tripoli was responsible for defending the Turks against Hifter’s accusations. But in the end, Turkey had to evacuate these Turks.
Because of hot news from Syria and Iraq, events in Libya have been largely ignored despite the acute turmoil in the country. Hifter has the support of the army, police and most of the tribes. Clashes between forces loyal to him and the Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are continuing. The central government has become irrelevant.
It is not easy to predict how this struggle between rival forces will end, but for the time being Hifter controls most of the country. His decision to expel Turks and Qataris is one indicator of his standing. Although allegations used for this decision could be challenged as baseless and false, one has to wonder why there is such a perception among those controlling the country. It means that Turkey has given them the impression of taking sides against them in the raging political struggle for power in Libya.
The expulsion of Turkish nationals makes our Libya policy problematic. It is yet another sign of how Turkey is losing the gains made by Turkish diplomacy in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. After Syria, Egypt and Iraq, now Libya has become a country of problems for Turkey.
Of course, unexpected developments in those countries have played some part in this situation, but one cannot ignore the role of some wrong policies the Ankara government has pursued.
It is certainly imperative to correctly diagnose why all these countries once known as friends are now targeting Turkey.
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