Erdogan demotes military architect of Turkey’s Libya policy

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JEDDAH: A key military leader behind Ankara’s naval policy regarding Libya was suspended from active duties in a surprise move by the Turkish president on Friday night.

The rear admiral and chief of staff of the Turkish Navy, Cihat Yayci, was assigned to the Turkish General Staff in the decision signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A recent close adviser to Erdogan on Mediterranean issues, Yayci was the architect of Turkey’s controversial maritime policy with Libya.

Whether the downgrading of his post is a sign of change in Turkey’s eastern Mediterranean policy remains uncertain.

In a recent book, “Requirements of Greece: The Problems in the Aegean with Questions and Answers,” Yayci argued that as the successor to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey should claim sovereignty over some islands and islets in the Aegean Sea. This angered Greek officials and made headlines in Turkey’s western neighbor.

In a statement in December, Erdogan had expressed gratitude to Yayci for his work on his country’s Libya policy, and for introducing the Turkish-Libyan maritime deal that was signed on Nov. 27.

The bilateral agreement was criticized by many as a fait accompli aimed at changing regional dynamics.

Yayci gained much popularity in pro-government circles. He also suggested drawing up a similar maritime delimitation agreement for Israel — a surprise move that was covered by Arab News.

According to an Ankara-based ex-military officer turned analyst, the clique that once supported Yayci within the establishment may have lost influence.

“Now the main question is whether he’ll submit his resignation or wait for August when Turkey’s Supreme Military Council will be held,” he told Arab News.

“Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar either pushes for the retirement of the generals who contradict him or reassigns them to passive duties.”

The Supreme Military Council, a committee convened by senior army officials and presided over by the Turkish president, is usually held in the first week of August and announces the promotions and dismissals of top brass.

All eyes were on Yayci for this year’s council, where he was expected to be promoted to vice admiral.

Another Ankara-based military analyst told Arab News: “His (Yayci’s) controversial books covering suggestions for Turkish maritime policy infuriated Akar, as he was outspoken in voicing his ideas about military moves.”

The analyst said: “However, the final straw was his (Yayci’s) insistence on pushing for negotiations between Israel and Ankara over the delimitation of maritime borders. The Turkish Foreign Ministry was against such a deal.”

Yayci was prevented from attending a critical strategy meeting at the presidential palace in December. Another admiral was sent in his place without any official explanation.

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