President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Monday that he may deploy Turkish troops to Libya if the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) requested it.
In an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber, he said that the United Nations arms embargo against Libya does not mean that the government cannot ask another country to deploy its forces on Libyan territory.
“In the event of such a call coming, it is Turkey’s decision what kind of initiative it will take here. We will not seek the permission of anyone on this,” he said.
Moreover, he said the Turkey and Libya can carry out joint oil and gas exploration operations off its Mediterranean coast in line with the recent maritime agreement that was signed between Ankara and the GNA.
The GNA and Turkey clinched the natural gas drilling accord last month in a step Ankara said aimed to defend its rights in the region, but that has infuriated Greece.
Tensions were already running high between Greece and Turkey because of Turkish gas explorations in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus. The European Union has readied sanctions against Turkey in response.
Erdogan said the accord would also allow Turkey to carry out drilling on Libya’s continental shelf with Tripoli’s approval, and that the deal was in line with international law.
The area where Turkey and Libya have drawn their maritime borders in the accord is not far south of the large Greek island of Crete.
“Other international actors cannot carry out exploration operations in these areas Turkey drew (up) with this accord without getting permission. Greek Cyprus, Egypt, Greece and Israel cannot establish a gas transmission line without first getting permission from Turkey,” Erdogan said.
Greece and Turkey are at odds over a host of issues, ranging from mineral rights in the Aegean Sea to Cyprus, which is divided into a breakaway Turkish republic in the north and the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state, in the south. Greece does not recognize the north of Cyprus.