Turkey mulls sending allied Syrian fighters to Libya

Turkey-backed Syrian fighters gather at a position east of the northeastern Syrian town of Ras Al-Ain. Turkey’s presidency sent a motion to parliament to approve a military deployment in Tripoli. (File/AFP)
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Updated 31 December 2019

Turkey mulls sending allied Syrian fighters to Libya

  • Turkey has not yet sent any Syrian fighters as part of the planned deployment
  • Video circulated online purportedly showing Syrian fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya was false

ANKARA: Turkey is considering sending allied Syrian fighters to Libya as part of its planned military support for the embattled government in Tripoli, four senior Turkish sources said on Monday, with one adding that Ankara was leaning toward the idea.
Turkey has not yet sent any Syrian fighters as part of the planned deployment, they told Reuters, on condition of anonymity.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government would deploy troops to Libya after Fayez Al-Serraj’s increasingly weak UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) requested support.
Turkey-backed Syrian fighters spearheaded a Turkish military incursion into northeast Syria in October targeting a Kurdish militia. Ankara also backs Syrian rebels in the northwest province of Idlib in Syria’s nearly nine-year civil war.
“It is currently not the case that Turkey is sending (Syrian rebel fighters) to Libya. But evaluations are being made and meetings are being held on this issue, and there is a tendency to go in this direction,” said one high-ranking Turkish official.
“There is no final decision on how many members will go there,” the official added.
The two senior Turkish officials and two security officials spoke to Reuters. It was unclear whether Ankara was mulling sending Syrian fighters as part of the first deployment.
Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar — supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan — have failed to reach the center of Tripoli but have made small gains in recent weeks with the help of Russian and Sudanese fighters, as well as drones shipped by the UAE, diplomats say.
The GNA said on Sunday that a video circulating online purportedly showing Syrian fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya was false and actually shot in the Syrian province of Idlib. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.
EXPERIENCED FIGHTERS
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, citing sources, said that 300 pro-Turkey Syrian fighters had been transferred to Libya and that others were training in Turkish camps.
“The military’s experience abroad will be very useful in Libya. However, there is the possibility of using the experience of Syrian fighters as well...and this is being evaluated,” said a Turkish security official.
“After parliament accepts the mandate, a step may be taken in this direction,” the person added.
Ankara signed two separate accords with the GNA last month: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.
The maritime deal ends Turkey’s isolation at sea as it ramps up offshore energy exploration that has alarmed Greece and other neighbors. The military deal would preserve its lone ally in the region, Tripoli, while preserving private investments in Libya including by Turkish construction firms.
In Syria, Turkey opposes President Bashar Assad. Its military has teamed up with rebel forces to carry out three cross-border incursions since 2016 against Daesh and the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.


Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

Updated 17 min 58 sec ago

Lebanon president to chair crisis talks over weekend violence

  • The meeting will touch on “security developments” in the country
  • Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s under-fire president is set to meet Monday with top security officials to discuss rare violence over the weekend that left hundreds wounded in the protest-hit country.

Michel Aoun will be joined by the care-taker ministers of the interior and defense as well as the chiefs of the military and security agencies in the early afternoon, his office said in a statement.

The meeting will touch on “security developments” in a country rocked since October 17 by unprecedented protests against a political class deemed incompetent, corrupt and responsible for an ever-deepening economic crisis.

It will also address “measures that need to be taken to preserve peace and stability,” the state-run National News agency (NNA) reported.

Demonstrators at the weekend lobbed stones, firecrackers and street signs at riot police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear a flashpoint road near parliament.

Over the most violent weekend in three months of street protests, some 530 were wounded on both sides, according to a toll compiled by AFP from figures provided by the Red Cross and Civil Defense.

Lawyers and rights groups have condemned the “excessive” and “brutal” use of force by security forces.

Human Rights Watch accused riot police of “launching tear gas canisters at protesters’ heads, firing rubber bullets in their eyes and attacking people at hospitals and a mosque.”

Internal Security Forces, for their part, have urged demonstrators to abstain from assaulting riot police and damaging public or private property.
Protesters had called for a week of “anger” over the political leadership’s failure to form a new government even as the debt-ridden country sinks deeper into a financial crisis.

Lebanon has been without a government since outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in the face of popular pressure.

Political factions agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister Hassan Diab as the new premier but have since squabbled over ministerial posts and portfolios.

Protesters have demanded a new government be comprised solely of independent experts, and exclude all established political parties.

The United Nations’ envoy to Lebanon pinned the blame for the violence on politicians.

“Anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped,” Jan Kubis wrote on Twitter on Saturday.