Erdogan: Turkey to send troops to Libya upon Tripoli's request



ISTANBUL/TUNIS, Ergin Hava and Tarek Guizani (dpa)- Turkey will deploy troops to Libya upon the invitation of the UN-backed government in Tripoli, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, a step set to fuel a long-running feud in the North African country.
A bill for deployment will be sent to the Turkish parliament when it opens next month, Erdogan added.



"Since now there is an invitation [from Libya], we will accept it," Erdogan told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
"God willing, we will pass in our parliament this [deployment bill] on January 8 and 9."
The AKP has a majority in parliament with its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
It was not immediately clear what kind of troops Turkey would deploy to Libya.
Turkey signed a military cooperation deal along with a maritime boundaries pact in the eastern Mediterranean with Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) last month, drawing international criticism.
The deal allows Turkey to deploy military training personnel and equipment to Libya upon request. Erdogan needs parliamentary approval for combat troop deployment.
Since April, the GNA in Tripoli and forces of Libya's military strongman Khalifa Haftar, based in the eastern part of the country, have upped their struggle for power.
Haftar's loyalists have since been pursuing an offensive to seize Tripoli.
Turkey, along with Qatar, is believed to support the Tripoli government against Haftar, who is considered to be aligned with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha said on Thursday that the Tripoli government would officially ask Turkey for military support.
"We have the right to defend Tripoli and legitimacy," he told reporters in Tunis.
Bashagha also said the Tripoli government was working with Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria to fulfil "economic cooperation and security stability."
He did not say if this covered military cooperation.
"If Tripoli falls, Tunisia and Algeria will fall," he said, referring to Libya's two neighbours.
On Wednesday, Erdogan discussed possibilities for a ceasefire in Libya during a surprise visit to Tunis.
In addition to the military pact, Ankara's deal on maritime boundaries with Tripoli stoked tensions with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over disputed drilling for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Turkey has foiled "games to trap us in our own shores in the Mediterranean," Erdogan said on Thursday, adding that his country will continue gas exploration off Cyprus with two drilling and two research vessels.
Cyprus has, since 1974, been split into a predominantly Greek south and a Turkish north, whose sovereignty is recognized only by Ankara. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004.
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Friday, December 27th 2019
Ergin Hava and Tarek Guizani (dpa)
           


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