Turkey to send troops to Libya: Er­do­gan

The Chronicle Herald (Provincial) - - OBITUARIES -

ANKARA/TRIPOLI — Turkey will send troops to Libya at the re­quest of Tripoli as soon as next month, Pres­i­dent Tayyip Er­do­gan said on Thurs­day, putting the North African coun­try's con­flict at the cen­ter of wider re­gional fric­tions.

Libya's in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized Govern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA) in Tripoli has been strug­gling to fend off Gen­eral Khal­ifa Haf­tar's forces, which have been sup­ported by Rus­sia, Egypt, the United Arab Emi­rates (UAE) and Jor­dan.

An of­fi­cial in Tripoli con­firmed a for­mal re­quest had been made for Turk­ish mil­i­tary sup­port in the air, on the ground and at sea.

The of­fi­cial, who asked not to be named, spoke af­ter the GNA's in­te­rior min­is­ter, Fathi Bashagha, sug­gested in com­ments to re­porters in Tu­nis that no such re­quest had been made.

Haf­tar's forces, which are based in east­ern Libya, could not be reached for com­ment.

Haf­tar's fight­ers have failed to reach the cen­ter of Tripoli but have made small gains in re­cent weeks in some south­ern sub­urbs of the cap­i­tal with the help of Russian and Su­danese fight­ers, as well as drones shipped by the UAE, diplo­mats say.

The Chi­nese-made drones have given Haf­tar "lo­cal air su­pe­ri­or­ity" as they can carry over eight times the weight of ex­plo­sives than the drones given to the GNA by Turkey and can also cover the whole of Libya, a United Na­tions re­port said in Novem­ber.

Last month, Ankara signed two sep­a­rate ac­cords with the GNA, led by Fayez al-Ser­raj, one on se­cu­rity and mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion and an­other on mar­itime bound­aries in the east­ern Mediter­ranean.

The mar­itime deal ends Turkey's iso­la­tion in the East Mediter­ranean as it ramps up off­shore en­ergy ex­plo­ration that has alarmed Greece and some other neigh­bors. The mil­i­tary deal would pre­serve its lone ally in the re­gion, Tripoli.

"Since there is an in­vi­ta­tion (from Libya) right now, we will ac­cept it," Er­do­gan told mem­bers of his AK Party in a speech. "We will put the bill on send­ing troops to Libya on the agenda as soon as par­lia­ment opens."

The leg­is­la­tion would pass around Jan. 8-9, he said, open­ing the door to de­ploy­ment.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day held a tele­phone call with Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah al-Sisi, the White House said, in which the two lead­ers "re­jected for­eign ex­ploita­tion" re­gard­ing Libya.

"The lead­ers ... agreed that par­ties must take ur­gent steps to re­solve the con­flict be­fore Libyans lose con­trol to for­eign ac­tors," the White House said.

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