The trade agreement signed recently between Turkey and Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) over the port of Tripoli has aroused widespread French suspicion, which considers it as "complete control" by Ankara over the port.
During a joint press conference on August 13, the GNA Minister of Planning Taher Al-Jahimi and Turkish Trade Minister Ruhsar Peckan signed what were described as a "very important economic and trade agreements."
The two ministers signed agreements on the resumption of several Turkish projects that were stalled due to the security situation in Libya. This was in an addition to an agreement which allowed Turkish company SCK to control imports at the port of Tripoli, which raised French concerns according to Radio France Internationale (RFI).
According to the RFI report, "the company, which is based in Istanbul, is owned by businessman Mehmet Kocabas, a friend of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and this Turkish company is now mandated by the Government of National Accord in Tripoli to monitor imports to the capital's port on behalf of Libyan customs."
In other words, the company will have to design, manage and monitor the source and quantity of all products transported at the port through an electronic program, tasks that are usually performed by local, not foreign companies.
According to leaked documents, the Commissioner for the GNA Ministry of Finance, Faraj Boumitri, is the one who signed the mandate granted to the Turkish company for an 8-year renewable period.
The deal raised concern in Tripoli, especially with the Union of Chambers of Commerce and the Libyan Chamber of Commercial Transport, in addition to other voices. Several authorities criticized the agreement on the condition of anonymity, saying it was a violation of Libyan sovereignty.
The Chamber of Maritime Navigation, in a correspondence with the Presidential Council, expressed its surprise at the decision to contract with a Turkish company to manage the Customs Authority and considered that "insisting on this contract raises suspicion and fear of corruption associated with the process." Noting that the entry of a foreign party to oversee Libyan sovereign authorities makes it easy to control the database and commercial statistics on strategic stocks of goods, especially with information prohibited from circulation except by the relevant sovereign authorities.
The Chamber added that the contracted Turkish company was also unknown and had no clear operations except in some unstable African countries that are going through stages of confusion and economic corruption, with a business model of levying fees on illegally imported goods in order to reap hundreds of millions annually in exchange for nothing but providing data.
Many experts consider the Turkish military intervention in Libya is directly related to Ankara's economic plans for the region.
It is noteworthy that the growing Turkish role in Libya and differences over oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean are a direct cause of tension in the relations between Ankara and Paris. French President Emmanuel Macron recently attack Turkish actions in the region, saying it was "playing a dangerous game."