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  •  Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Ankara, Turkey, December 26, 2019.

    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Ankara, Turkey, December 26, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 December 2019
Opinion

“Since there is an invitation (from Libya) right now, we will accept it,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in a speech. “We will put the bill on sending troops to Libya on the agenda as soon as parliament opens.”

Turkey will send troops to Libya at the request of Tripoli as soon as next month, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, putting the North African country’s conflict at the center of wider regional frictions.

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Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has been struggling to fend off General Khalifa Haftar’s forces from eastern Libya, which have been supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan.

It was unclear what specific invitation Erdogan was referring to as the interior minister in the Tripoli-based government, Fathi Bashagha, suggested in comments to reporters in Tunis that no official request had yet been made.

“If the situation escalates and then we have the right to defend Tripoli and its residents ... we will submit an official request to the Turkish government to support us militarily so we expel the ghost of mercenary forces,” Bashagha said on Thursday.

Haftar’s forces were not immediately available for comment.

They have failed to reach the center of Tripoli but have made small gains in recent weeks in some southern suburbs of the capital with the help of Russian and Sudanese fighters, as well as drones shipped by the UAE, diplomats say.

The Chinese-made drones have given Haftar “local air superiority” as they can carry over eight times the weight of explosives than the drones given to the GNA by Turkey and can also cover the whole of Libya, a U.N. report said in November.

Last month, Ankara signed two separate accords with the GNA, led by Fayez al-Serraj, one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

The maritime deal ends Turkey’s isolation in the East Mediterranean as it ramps up offshore energy exploration that has alarmed Greece and some other neighbors. The military deal would preserve its lone ally in the region, Tripoli.

“Since there is an invitation (from Libya) right now, we will accept it,” Erdogan told members of his AK Party in a speech. “We will put the bill on sending troops to Libya on the agenda as soon as parliament opens.”

The legislation would pass around Jan. 8-9, he said, opening the door to deployment.

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