Turkey says 6 nationals held in Libya, vows to respond

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar looks on before posing for a family picture during the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels on June 27, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 June 2019

Turkey says 6 nationals held in Libya, vows to respond

  • Turkey said 6 of its nationals were being held by a Libyan force and vowed to respond to any attacks
  • The comments came after Haftar called Turkish assets in Libya 'legitimate targets,' accusing Ankara of helping rival militias

ANKARA: Turkey said on Sunday six of its nationals were being held by forces of Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar after earlier warning Ankara was ready to retaliate against attacks.
Haftar has ordered attacks on Turkish ships and interests after he recently lost ground to the UN-recognized Libyan government which is also backed by Turkey.
“The detention of six of our citizens by illegal militia forces linked to Haftar is an act of thuggery and piracy. We expect our citizens to be immediately released,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Should this not happen, Haftar elements will become legitimate targets,” it added.
But the ministry did not give any details on where the Turks were being held or when they had been taken by the forces.
A ministry source told AFP there was “no additional information to give at this stage.”
Haftar’ instructed the Libyan National Army (LNA) to target Turkish companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya, his spokesman said Friday.
After a NATO-backed uprising that led to dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s death in 2011, Libya was propelled into chaos with militias fighting for control of the country.
Haftar was a retired general who had taken part in the revolt against Qaddafi but in May 2014, he launched his assault to purge the country of extremist terrorists.
The LNA, which holds eastern Libya and much of the country’s south, launched an offensive to take the capital Tripoli in early April.
Anti-Haftar forces recently retook the strategic town of Gharyan in a surprise attack and a major setback for the commander.
Earlier on Sunday, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned there would be a “heavy price for hostile attitudes or attacks,” in comments to state news agency Anadolu.
“We will retaliate in the most effective and strong way,” Akar said.
He said Turkey’s efforts in Libya sought to “contribute to peace” in the region.
“It should be known that we have taken all kinds of measures to deal with any threat or antagonistic action against Turkey,” Akar added.
He emphasised Turkey’s push to support a political solution in Libya would continue and said Turkish efforts were in line with international law and agreements.
Turkey has a keen interest in Libya, especially since it had been part of the Ottoman Empire until 1912 when the north African country was conquered by Italy.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country backs the so-called interim Government of National Accord (GNA) and provides weapons to it under a “military cooperation agreement.”

Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

Updated 3 min 9 sec ago

Pressure grows in US for firm response to Iran after Aramco attacks 

  • Senator Lindsey Graham urges retaliatory strikes on Iranian oilfields if Tehran continues ‘provocations’
  • UN Secretary General urged for calm and called on both sides to ‘exercise restraint’

WASHINGTON: An American senator has called for Washington to consider an attack on Iranian oil facilities as pressure grows in the US for a firm response to the Saudi Aramco strikes.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the drone attacks on Saturday against the Abqaiq oil processing plant and the Khurais oil field. He also suggested that unlike previous drone and missile attacks on the Kingdom, this one may not have been launched from Yemen by the Iran-backed Houthis. Reports have said that the attack may have originated in Iraq where Iran also holds sway over a large number of powerful militias.

“It is now time for the US to put on the table an attack on Iranian oil refineries if they continue their provocations or increase nuclear enrichment,” Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator close to Donald Trump, said on Twitter.

“Iran will not stop their misbehavior until the consequences become more real, like attacking their refineries, which will break the regime’s back.”

Iran on Sunday denied it was behind the attack, but the Yemeni Houthi militia backed by Tehran, claimed they had launched them. 

The White House on Sunday did not rule out a potential meeting between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, even after Washington accused Iran of being behind drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said the attacks “did not help” prospects for a meeting between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly this month but she left open the possibility it could happen.

"You're not helping your case much," by attacking Saudi Arabia, civilian areas and critical infrastructure that affects global energy markets.” Conway told the Fox News Sunday program.

The Trump administration's sanctions and “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile program will continue whether or not the two leaders meet, she added.

The US ramped up pressure on Iran last year after trump withdrew from an international pact to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Washington has reimposed a tough sanctions regime on Tehran, which it accuses of hiding behind the nuclear deal to advance its missiles program and aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, condemnation of the attacks continued from around the world.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint to prevent any escalation.

UK foreign minister Dominic Raab said the attack was a “reckless attempt to damage regional security and disrupt global oil supplies.”

The European Union warned of a “real threat to regional security” in the Middle East.

*With Reuters