Turkish embassy in Libya reopens

Security officers stand guard outside the Turkish embassy in Tripoli

Nearly one month after the Italian Embassy in Libya re-opened, the Turkish government announced that it was also re-establishing its mission in Tripoli. The renewed operations at the Italian Embassy are a sign of continued robust European support for the Government of National Accord (GNA) rather than the competing eastern forces under Field Marshall Khalfia Haftar’s control. Turkey has long supported Haftar’s rivals, including the GNA, in the west. It even supported the GNA following the attempted take-over in Tripoli by the rump General National Congress (Congress), which includes many of Ankara’s former proxy allies.

Beyond an attempt to prop up the weak GNA from Haftar’s increasing threats, the re-opening of the Turkish Embassy will also enable Ankara to promote Turkey’s significant commercial interests in Libya. Turkish companies, especially in the construction sector, stand to make billions of US dollars if existing contracts are honoured. Turkish companies are also profiting from efforts to help Libya cope with its immediate infrastructure needs.

In particular, Turkey’s largest construction firm Enka İnşaat ve Sanayi A.Ş (ENKA) is expected to restart work on a power station serving the southern city of Ubari, where there have been severe power cuts. After conducting a site survey this month, ENKA plans to send a team to begin implementing the project in March. It was initially commissioned in 2010, but was disrupted by the 2011 revolution and then the subsequent clashes between Tebu and Tuareg groups.

Despite the uncertainty of payment or legal recourse if something goes wrong, the competition for these types of contracts is fierce. This can include political dimensions as different governments control different parts of the country. METKA — a Greek company that operates as part of the Mytilineos group run by Evangelos Mytilineos — claimed to have signed a US$380 million deal with the General Authority for Electricity and Renewable Energy of Libya (GAEREL) and the General Electric Company of Libya (GECOL) to build a new 500 MW power station in Haftar-controlled Tobruk. The town’s current power station is a 130MW oil-fired plant.

It is unclear how the unrecognised eastern government would pay for this project because oil revenues funnel to Libya through the central bank branch in Tripoli, and the central bank’s Bayda branch has been even more opaque in its work than the one in Tripoli. The deal is also significantly exposed to the risk of being invalidated because it was made with the unrecognized government in the east.

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