From 'Zero Problems' to Zero Trade

There is at the moment no hope that the government can reverse the crisis. Ankara’s only hope is for the UN to conclude its reconciliation efforts as soon as possible. A government source speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity attributed this drastic decision to expel Turkish companies to pressures exerted by Egypt, saying, “After the massacre of 21 Copts, Tobruk has been under stronger Egyptian influence.

In fact, the chairman of the Representatives Assembly, Akile Salih, is uneasy with this decision by Thinni. We have been unofficially informed of that sentiment. We as Turkey want the problem between the Tobruk and Tripoli governments to be solved through negotiations. But Thinni refused to attend the meeting planned in Morocco as part of the UN mediation. This is attributed to the increasing influence of Egypt.”

According to this source, Salih was invited to Ankara last month to discuss a peaceful solution and the return of Turkish companies to Libya. He was to meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured) and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Jan. 14.

But Salih, who kept some meetings in Istanbul, did not go to his appointments in Ankara. Three times earlier on, Salih had sent special envoys to Ankara to ask for the Turkish businessmen to be allowed to return to Libya.

The government source said it was Egypt that persuaded Salih not to go to Ankara, saying, “We offered two alternative dates — on Jan. 19 and 26 — to the Tobruk side instead of the Jan. 14 meeting that wasn’t held. They still didn’t come. But the chairman of the [Tripoli] National General Congress, Nuri Abu Sehmein, accepted our invitation and came on Jan. 16 for meetings.”

The same source, discussing the effects of the expulsion of Turkish companies, said, "We should not overstate the significance of the declaration of the Tobruk side. This government rules Tobruk, Bayda and Merc with a total population of not even 300,000. Therefore, it is a decision that applies to companies working in those three cities.

For example, a Turkish company called 77 Insaat is continuing with road construction at Kufra. But upon the request of the Tobruk government, we withdrew the Karadeniz mobile electricity power ship.”

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