Libya's Haftar to allow Turkish 'enemy' vessels to dock

Libya militia leader Haftar to allow Turkish 'enemy' vessels to dock in Benghazi
2 min read
18 March, 2021
The rebel militia leader raised no objection to the entry of a Turkish-flagged commercial ships after multiple orders to prevent access to Libyan waters in the east.
Eastern Libyan-based rebel leader Khalifa Haftar on Wednesday said he would not oppose a Turkish-flagged commercial ship docking at a Benghazi port, under the control of his militias, signalling a shift in relations between the long-time foes.

In a letter addressed to the Ports and Maritime Transport Administration, Haftar said "we have no objection to the entry to our ports of Turkish-flagged commercial ships that comply with the stated legal procedures and legislation", Al-Hadath, a pro-Haftar television station, reported.

The move comes after multiple orders to prevent Turkish vessels from entering Libyan waters in the east - a region controlled by pro-Haftar militias - while a decree in June also stated that companies and vessels from the country were legitimate targets.

A Turkish ship transporting medicine to Libya's port of Misrata, controlled by Libya's internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), was detained in December last year by forces loyal to Haftar.

It was released a few days later but the seizure raised fears of a possible new flashpoint in the conflict after a weeks-long truce.

The Turkish military had helped the GNA repel an offensive on Tripoli by Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) militias, which is supported by Russia, Egypt and the UAE.

Ankara and Tripoli signed two memorandums of understanding, one on military cooperation and one on maritime boundaries of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a businessman-turned-politician chosen as Libya's new interim prime minister in the lead-up to national elections on 24 December, said he would maintain "distinguished ties" with Turkey.

Read also: In Libya ten years after uprising 'abusive militias evade justice and instead reap rewards': Amnesty

Regional factors including the rapprochement between Turkey and Egypt and the normalisation of ties between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc have recently appeared to de-escalate tensions in the MENA region. While Turkey and Qatar have backed the GNA, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia have supported Haftar.

Negotiations are ongoing to end a civil war that has engulfed the country since a NATO-backed military campaign resulted in the ousting and killing of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The GNA and LNA signed a ceasefire deal in October and the United Nations has been pushing a political dialogue aimed at elections this year. Both sides have stopped short of withdrawing forces from the front line as demanded.

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