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Turkey's Erdogan announces plans to send troops to Libya

Erdogan maintained he would only deploy Turkish troops if requested by Libya's GNA [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 December, 2019

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Erdogan has announced that the Turkish parliament will vote on deploying Turkish forces to Libya following a formal request from the UN-backed Government of National Accord.
Turkey has announced that it will send troops to Libya after a request by the Government of National Accord (GNA) for military assistance in its fight against rogue warlord Khalifa Haftar.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that his government would seek a parliamentary mandate to deploy troops to Libya to stave off the advance of Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) on the capital Tripoli.

"We will propose a plan…as soon as parliament convenes," Erdogan said in Ankara.

Speaking to his ruling party's officials, Erdogan explained that the Tripoli government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj "invited" Turkey to send troops under a recently-signed military cooperation agreement.

The vote will take place on 8-9 January, following the formal request made by the GNA, Erdogan said.

In another development on Friday, unnamed officials from Turkey and Libya told Bloomberg that Turkey-backed Syrian rebels are expected to soon join the fight against Haftar.

The deployment of the Sultan Murad Brigade, a Turkmen rebel group who have fought alongside Turkey in northern Syria, does not represent an official deployment of Turkish forces, according to one of the officials.

On Saturday, the Turkish parliament approved a security and military cooperation deal with Prime Minister Fayaz al-Sarraj's UN-recognised government, which would see an expansion of Turkey's activities within Libya.

The memorandum of understanding between the countries included intelligence, terrorism and defence training and coordination, as well as addressing the issue of migration, but had no mention of the direct deployment of Turkish troops.

Read more: Turkey parliament approves Libya military deal

Erdogan made the latest announcement on his return from a trip to Tunisia on Wednesday, where he was accompanied by senior ministers and his intelligence chief.

In a meeting with Tunisian President Kais Saied, he affirmed his belief that his counterpart could play a key role in providing assistance in efforts to stabilise its neighbour.

But several Mediterranean countries view Erdogan's agreements with the GNA with deep suspicion.

In November, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj unilaterally agreed to a maritime deal, which granted Turkey access to an economic zone spanning a large basin of the Mediterranean, despite the objection of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, countries located between the deal's signatories.  

The close relationship between Libya's GNA and Turkey has also provoked the ire of the Arab League, of which Libya is still a member.

The intergovernmental organisation called for an end to cooperation between the two, while three of its members, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, openly support strongman Haftar, providing his militia with continued military and logistical support.

Russia too has expressed concerns towards Turkish involvement with Libya's internationally recognised government.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told AFP news agency that it was "unlikely the interference of third parties in this situation could contribute to a settlement", alluding to Turkey's plans to deploy ground forces in Libya.

Erdogan has publicly decried the Russian-backed private military contractor who support Haftar's forces in Libya, the presence of which Russia continues to deny.  

The Wagner Group is  also involved in the Syrian civil war, where Russia backs President Bashar al-Assad's war against rebel forces.

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