ISTANBUL: Turkey's parliament on Saturday approved a security and military cooperation deal signed with Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) last month, state media reported, an agreement that could pave the way for military help from Ankara.
Turkey has been backing the GNA led by Fayez Al-Serraj as it fights off a months-long offensive by Khalifa Haftar's forces based in the east of the country.
Ankara has already sent military supplies to Libya in violation of a United Nations arms embargo, according to a report by UN experts seen by Reuters last month.
The two sides signed the deal in November to boost military cooperation along with a separate accord on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean that has enraged Greece.
A senior US State Department official described the memorandum of understanding on maritime cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean, as "unhelpful" and "provocative."
"Now with the maritime boundaries, you're drawing in Greece and Cyprus ... From the United States' perspective, this is a cancer ... It's not the time to be provoking more instability in the Mediterranean," the official said.
On Saturday, the state-run Anadolu news agency said Turkey's parliament voted 269-125 in favour of the security accord after Al-Serraj's Government of National Accord ratified it on Thursday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey could deploy troops to Libya in support of the GNA but no request has yet been made. He said on Friday that Turkey could not remain silent over Russian-backed mercenaries backing Haftar's forces.
The United States is very concerned about the intensification of the conflict in Libya, with a rising number of reported Russian mercenaries supporting Khalifa Haftar's forces on the ground, the US official added on Saturday
The United States continues to recognize the Government of National Accord led by Fayez Al-Serraj, the official said, but added that Washington is not taking sides in the conflict and is talking to all stakeholders who could be influential in trying to forge an agreement.
"With the increased numbers of reported Wagner forces and mercenaries on the ground, we think it's changing the landscape of the conflict and intensifying it," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to a shadowy group of mercenaries known as Wagner.
Russia, meanwhile, said it was very concerned about the possibility of Turkey deploying troops in Libya and that the security deal raised many questions for Moscow.
Erdogan will discuss Ankara's potential troop deployment to Libya with Russian President Vladimir Putin during talks in Turkey next month, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.
Speaking on Saturday, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the accords with Libya were historic for Turkey and added Ankara was ready to evaluate possible troop deployment.