Sat, Jan 04, 2020 - Page 1 News List

Trump warns Turkey after Libya vote


Turkish Legislator Erkan Bas holds a map of a divided Libya before a vote to send Turkish troops to the nation at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

The Turkish parliament on Thursday approved the deployment of troops to Libya aimed at shoring up the UN-backed government in Tripoli, sparking a blunt warning from US President Donald Trump against any “foreign interference” in the war-torn nation.

Libya has been beset by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and the west vying for power.

The beleaguered Tripoli government, headed by Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has been under sustained attack since April last year by General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by Turkey’s regional rivals — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

In response to the prospect that Ankara might intervene after the vote, Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a telephone call “that foreign interference is complicating the situation in Libya,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement.

Egypt also strongly condemned the Turkish vote, saying that it amounted to a “flagrant violation of international law and [UN] Security Council resolutions on Libya,” while Israel, Cyprus and Greece denounced a “dangerous threat to regional stability.”

The Libyan parliament in the east — allied with Haftar — called Turkey’s prospective military intervention “high treason.”

Erdogan is due to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday next week to inaugurate a new gas pipeline and Libya is expected to be a key topic of discussion.

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

At the same time, Turkey and Russia have managed to work closely on the Syrian conflict, despite supporting opposing sides, and are expected to seek a similar balancing act with regards to Libya.

Erdogan’s office confirmed on Friday last week that a request for military support had been received from the Tripoli-based government of national accord.

No details have been given on the scale of the potential deployment and Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told state news agency Anadolu that no date had 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 vote as a “political signal” aimed at deterring Haftar.

“The Libyan motion is important for the protection of the interests of our country, and for the peace and stability of the region,” Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu tweeted after the vote.

A UN report in November last year said that several nations were breaching the arms embargo on Libya in place since the overthrow of Qaddafi. Jordan and the United Arab Emirates regularly supply Haftar’s forces, it said, while Turkey supports the Tripoli-based government.

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