ANKARA: Turkey is ready to give Libya military support, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, with the country’s Parliament readying to authorize troop deployment.
Turkey backs the government of Fayez Al-Serraj in Libya, which has been split into rival political and military factions since 2011 when ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed.
Al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has been battling the forces of veteran eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to seize Tripoli from fighters loyal to the GNA.
Turkey and Libya recently signed a military cooperation deal. It includes provisions for a quick reaction force if requested by Tripoli.
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
“We will continue to support the internationally recognized Libyan government. This support may be in terms of military training, or other areas, such as political support,” presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said after Omer Celik, a spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party, said the country would use hard power instruments to protect its national interests if necessary.
The military cooperation deal has been criticized by the Turkish opposition, which said further military supplies to the GNA breach a UN arms embargo.
But Erdogan pledged Sunday to intensify military backing to Libya along with ground, air and marine options. Some Turkish media have reported that the government may establish a military base in Libya to support its operations.
“It is important not to confuse Erdogan’s rhetoric and the physical reality of the actions he has taken lately,” Jalel Harchaoui, a Libya expert at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, told Arab News. “Those are two very different things.”
He recalled that Turkey sent around 60 national intelligence officers to operate combat drones in Libya during the summer, in violation of the arms embargo.
He said that the operation, although clandestine, helped the GNA to survive. “However, that Turkish mission stopped almost entirely in the second half of October. After the defense accord was signed on November 27, the mission has been partially resumed. But it is now a much more timid, much smaller version of summer’s operation. Very few airstrikes are being carried out by the Turks on behalf of Libya’s internationally recognized government.”
Ankara was only talking about possibly sending government troops, he said, but none of it had happened.
“Turkey’s intervention right now is much smaller than three or four months ago. And even back then, the Turkish military intervention was remarkably smaller than the Emiratis’ own military intervention, which now involves airstrikes conducted using fighter jets on a routine basis. Overall, since April, the total number of Emirati drone strikes has been three times as large as the Turkish drone strikes in Libya.”
Harchaoui said that Ankara seemed “deeply interested” in attempting some sort of diplomatic entente, particularly with Russia.
Russia has said it is concerned about the possibility of Turkey deploying troops in Libya. Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting Turkey next month, with the two nations expected to launch an important Libya initiative.
Erdogan said Wednesday he had discussed with his Tunisian counterpart, President Kais Saied, possible steps and cooperation to establish a cease-fire in Libya.
In a news conference alongside Saied, Erdogan said he believed Tunisia would have “valuable and constructive” contributions to establishing stability in Libya.