Erdogan paves the way for troop deployment in Libya

27 December, 2019 12:00 AM printer

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday opened the way for direct Turkish military intervention in Libya, announcing a parliamentary vote in early January on sending troops to support the UN-backed Tripoli government against strongman Khalifa Haftar, reports AFP.

Sending Turkish troops will complicate the situation in an already fragile country torn by internal dissent since the ouster and killing of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

“We will present the motion to send troops (to Libya) as soon as parliament resumes” on January 7, Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara.

“God willing, we will pass it in parliament on January 8-9 and thus respond to an invitation” from the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), he said.

Erdogan’s comments come after the Turkish parliament on Saturday ratified a security and military cooperation deal with the GNA of Fayez al-Sarraj.

That agreement, which came into force on Thursday, allows Ankara to send military and security personnel to Libya for training purposes, according to Turkish officials.

But a separate motion is needed to send boots on the ground. The Turkish parliament in October passed another motion to deploy troops in Iraq and Syria for another year.

“We have given and will give all forms of support to the Tripoli government which is fighting against a putschist general backed by Arab countries and Europeans,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader has in recent weeks vowed to increase military support to the GNA if needed as it battles Haftar, who launched an offensive in April to seize the capital.

Erdogan on Wednesday paid an unannounced visit to Tunisia with his defence minister and spy chief to discuss ways of reaching a ceasefire in Libya.

Ankara has also signed a separate maritime jurisdiction agreement with the GNA — which has drawn international criticism especially from Greece, as part of its efforts to establish itself as a key player in the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean.

Pro-GNA militias and Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army are vying for control of the North African country. Turkey and Qatar back the GNA, while Haftar has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia — all of whom have tense relations with Turkey.