Abdul Hamid Dbeibé, Prime Minister of Libya's Government of National Unity - whose term of office ended on 24 December 2021 - and head of the country's defence portfolio, signed two agreements this week with his Turkish counterpart, Hulusi Akar, aimed at strengthening military cooperation between Tripoli and Ankara and, more specifically, at modernising Libyan aviation equipment. The initialling of the two texts took place in Istanbul, as part of Dbeibé's agenda on an official visit that the Libyan government did not announce in advance.
According to a statement from the Ankara defence ministry, the first of the documents includes "the improvement of the efficiency and capabilities of the Libyan air force" thanks to the training of North African pilots by the Turkish armed forces. An initiative that will be developed "within the framework of the 'Flight Training Protocol between the Republic of Turkey and the Government of National Unity of Libya'". The agreement was also signed in the presence of Yasar Guler and Atilla Golan, chief of staff and commander of the Turkish Air Force, respectively.
It addresses "a number of modern aviation exercises, defines the principles and responsibilities related to flight tests, and the controls, conditions and obligations of both sides in relation to the participants of these exercises," explained the spokesman for the Government of National Unity, Mohamed Hammouda, according to Al-Arab News. It also "includes an annex with other aviation training programmes, such as training on aircraft, jets and helicopters".
Millî Savunma Bakanı Hulusi Akar ile Libya Başbakanı ve Savunma Bakanı Abdulhamid Dibeybe’nin dünkü görüşmesinin ardından iki önemli anlaşmaya imza atıldı.https://t.co/UaVXOxGOsI#MSB #HulusiAkar pic.twitter.com/foPJty1N7r— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) October 26, 2022
The second text, meanwhile, included "executive protocols for the security agreement signed by the Presidential Council of the Government of National Unity in 2019" to boost Turkish-Libyan military cooperation, the Tripoli communiqué explained. These protocols "stipulate the formation of the Supreme Defence Committee [...] and the Military Cooperation Committee, their functioning, their tasks and the formation of their units, as well as the definition of the areas of cooperation between Libya and Turkey," Hammouda said.
The signing of these agreements comes just a few weeks after the Dbeibé government concluded two other memoranda of understanding with Ankara on 3 October, during the visit of a high-level Turkish delegation to Tripoli, on energy (oil and gas) and security cooperation. These documents, which generated a great deal of rejection both within the North African country and internationally, allow both countries to jointly develop exploration and exploitation activities for gas and oil reserves within their mutual maritime borders.
However, all these Turkish-Libyan rapprochements are being perceived by several international observers and analysts as a strategy by Dbeibé to gain Ankara's backing and remain in power, since his government ended in December last year and, since then, he has been holding on as an interim executive while awaiting general elections. In this sense, the unilaterally decided signing of the latest pacts and memoranda of understanding with Turkey could only provoke Dbeibé's opponents in the country and undermine the efforts of the new special envoy and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Abdullah Bathili.
The leader of the National Unity Government also rejected, just a week ago, the progress made in Rabat by the president of the Chamber of Deputies (the Tobruk parliament), Aguila Saleh, and the president of the Supreme Council of State (the equivalent of the Libyan Senate), Khaled Al-Mashri, rival factions in the Libyan conflict, following a meeting with the Moroccan foreign minister, Naser Bourita. The two leaders agreed to relaunch the appointment of senior officials (such as the president of the Libyan Central Bank, the head of the Anti-Corruption Agency and the attorney general) "in the coming weeks", as well as to work on a "unified executive" for the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections.
"The holding of elections is not a priority for the current government in Tripoli", criticised Al-Mashri during a television interview, "and we reject the family government [of Dbeibé] and the cases of corruption within the government itself". The leader of the Supreme State Council condemned the political paralysis to which Dbeibé's government has subjected the country since he came to power. "We do not rule out working in cooperation with the Chamber of Deputies and the United Nations mission to form a third government" different from Dbeibé's and that of Fathi Bashagha (backed by Marshal Haftar, in the east of the country), explained Al-Mashri in other declarations.