World

Turkey parliament approves Libya military deployment

January 02, 2020
Libyan security members and locals inspect damages on the site of a reported air strike in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Tajoura in this Dec. 29, 2019 file photo. — AFP
Libyan security members and locals inspect damages on the site of a reported air strike in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Tajoura in this Dec. 29, 2019 file photo. — AFP

ANKARA — Turkey's parliament passed a bill on Thursday approving a military deployment to Libya, aimed at shoring up the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

The beleaguered Tripoli government has been under sustained attack since April by military strongman General Khalifa Haftar.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office confirmed last Friday that a request for military support had been received from the GNA.

No details have been given on the scale of the potential deployment, and Vice President Fuat Oktay told state news agency Anadolu on Wednesday that no date had yet been set.

"We are ready. Our armed forces and our defense ministry are ready," he said, adding that parliamentary approval would be valid for a year.

He described the parliament motion as a "political signal" aimed at deterring Haftar's army.

"After it passes, if the other side changes its attitude and says, 'OK, we are withdrawing, we are abandoning our offensive,' then what should we go there for?"

The bill passed easily through Turkey's parliament, by 325 votes to 184.

A UN report in November said several countries were violating the arms embargo on Libya in place since the overthrow of its long-time dictator Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The Libyan conflict is expected to be a key topic of discussion when Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Turkey next Wednesday.

Erdogan has repeatedly accused Russia of sending private mercenaries to support Haftar's forces, though this has been denied by Moscow.

However, Turkey and Russia have managed to work closely on Syria despite supporting opposing sides in that conflict and are expected to seek a similar balancing act with regards to Libya.

Turkey has used its alliance with the Tripoli government to advance other interests.

It signed a military cooperation agreement with the GNA during a visit by its leader, Fayez Al-Sarraj, to Istanbul in November.

But they also signed a maritime jurisdiction agreement giving Turkey rights to large swathes of the Mediterranean where gas reserves have recently been discovered.

The agreement drew international criticism, particularly from Greece which says it ignores its own claims to the area.

Analysts say Ankara was responding to being frozen out of regional energy deals, notably the "East Mediterranean Gas Forum", formed this year by Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian territories.


January 02, 2020
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