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Libya Denies Leasing Port to Turkey for Military Base

Libya
(Libyian Ports Authority)

Published Aug 17, 2023 1:08 PM by The Maritime Executive

Libya is denying leasing its Mediterranean Port of Al-Khums to Turkey following numerous media reports this week. Mohammed Hamuda, Spokesman in Libya’s Prime Minister Office, termed the reports as incorrect. The Chief of General Staff, Mohammed Al-Haddad, also rejected the claims saying an agreement to lease the port can only be reached after thorough consultations among relevant authorities.

Al Khums Port is a significant commercial and industrial port. It is located on the northern coast of Libya, just to the east of the capital city of Tripoli.

On Wednesday, several Libyan and Turkish media outlets reported that Turkey had leased Libya’s Al-Khums port for 99 years. Turkey reportedly wants to turn the port into a military base for its navy and air force. The signing of the lease agreement is said to be scheduled during an upcoming visit of a Turkish delegation to Libya.

Based on recent political machinations surrounding the operations of the Al-Khums Port, it is apparent some Libyan government insiders support leasing the port. Last week, Libya’s eastern-based House of Representatives accused the military prosecutor of trying to annex Khums Port into a military base. The parliament’s speaker Aqila Saleh urged the Presidential Council to pause any such annexation.

For the past few days, Al-Khums City has also experienced protests from locals against the creation of a military base at the port. Prime Minister Abdul Dbeibah convened a ministerial meeting last Sunday.

Meanwhile, the idea of a Turkish military base in Libya does not seem impossible. Since the start of the civil war after the fall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Turkey has offered immense military aid to Libya to support “peacebuilding and political dialogue,” according to Turkish officials.

In addition, Turkey has been consolidating its influence in the Mediterranean through its assertive role in the region’s politics. It appears an opportunity to set up a base in Libya aligns with Turkey’s geopolitical and maritime interests. The port would give Turkey access to Libya’s coastline of over 1,000 miles along the Mediterranean.