Turkey remains a mediator with Moscow and Kiev as it strengthens its position to gain leverage with the new trans-Saharan gas pipeline on the horizon

Erdogan continues his diplomatic funambulism and hopes to strengthen his position in Libya as he mediates between Russia and Ukraine

photo_camera Sputnik/Vyacheslav Prokofyev/Pool vía REUTERS - Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, 5 August 2022.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the crisis situation in the region to his advantage. And this would be common when talking about any leader, given that his objective will always be the benefit of his country, but when we talk about the Turkish president, an asterisk must be placed over his name. Erdogan handles these situations like very few others, he knows how to play his cards and, above all, how to direct attention to one situation or another according to his country's interests.

And that is precisely what he does when he shows his mediating stance between Russia and Ukraine while at the same time pushing Libya as an option to host the new trans-Saharan gas pipeline. Erdogan's latest meeting with Vladimir Putin - the fourth so far this year - is a good example of the position that the Ottoman country has always defended since the outbreak of the war with Ukraine, and which the Turkish president made a point of recalling at the end of the meeting with his Russian counterpart, saying that one of the diplomatic objectives was to "maintain the momentum achieved, despite the difficulties on the ground, and to achieve a ceasefire as soon as possible".

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At the same time, Turkey is eyeing two countries with which it knows it can gain significant leverage. Syria is one of them. While Lebanon is discussing with refugee rights associations the risk of taking refugees back to their country, Turkey has moved closer to Damascus and opened three humanitarian crossing points in a bid to normalise relations with the Syrians. Although withdrawing Turkish troops from Syrian territory is not in Erdogan's plans, Ankara would like to move closer to what is one of Moscow's important allies.

The most important problem in this attempt to redirect Turkish-Syrian relations comes from the White House. Washington does not welcome a rapprochement between Erdogan's regime and Syria and says it does not support any kind of rapprochement. Vidant Patel, deputy spokesman for the US State Department, was categorical on the issue, stating that "the US Administration will not express any support for normalisation efforts with Bashar al-Assad or his rehabilitation". He added that 'the United States has no intention of upgrading our diplomatic relations with al-Assad, and we do not support normalisation of relations'.

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The third situation Turkey is keeping an eye on is that surrounding the creation of the new trans-Saharan gas pipeline. Many candidates, a lot of money and, above all, the possibility of gaining a lot of influence in a very strategically succulent region. For all these reasons, Ankara has set its sights on Libya as the host country for this pipeline, and has thus been awarded a project valued at 13 billion euros. Despite the fact that the Algerian proposal has an advantage, Tripoli is geographically more conveniently located for the development of the pipeline, as it only has to pass through Chad.

The savings in cost and production time make the Libyan proposal one of the candidates to host the pipeline. However, the Algerian and Moroccan proposals should not be dismissed so soon. What does seem clear is that not only is Libya not alone in this candidacy, but Turkey, with which it recently signed a controversial energy agreement, is lobbying for its partner to take on the project. Thus, Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to play his cards on the international chessboard, which, being in turmoil, far from complicating things for Turkey, allows it to take advantage of situations of instability to obtain important benefits for the Ottoman country.

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