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Turkish Parliament Approves Controversial Military Deal with Libya’s GNA

Turkish Parliament Approves Controversial Military Deal with Libya’s GNA

Saturday, 21 December, 2019 - 18:30
Head of the GNA Fayez al-Sarraj (L) meets Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP file photo)

Turkey’s parliament approved a security and military deal with Libya’s Government of National Accord on Saturday on the heels of a controversial maritime agreement earlier this month that has drawn international ire.

The deal allows Turkey to provide military training and equipment at the request of the GNA that controls the capital, Tripoli, and some of the country's west.

Libyan National Accord forces based in Libya's east opened a fierce new assault on the capital last week and on Friday. They gave the militias defending Tripoli a three-day deadline to pull out.

The LNA, led by commander Khalifa Haftar, has been trying to capture the capital since April.

The UN has criticized foreign interference in Libya amid the recent escalation in violence, and urged Libyans to return to political dialogue.

UN experts have also identified multiple cases of non-compliance with a UN arms embargo. They said the majority of arms sent to the GNA came from Turkey.

Russian concern

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed the two agreements with Tripoli in November. He said Turkey could deploy troops to Libya upon request.

Turkish lawmakers now have given the green light to send military advisors, experts and personnel to the conflict, if asked. Ankara could also send weapons and military vehicles, conduct military training, joint exercises and share intelligence.

Russia said it was very concerned about the possibility of Turkey deploying troops in Libya and that the security deal raised many questions for Moscow.

Erdogan will discuss Ankara’s potential troop deployment to Libya with Russian President Vladimir Putin during talks in Turkey next month, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

Speaking on Saturday, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said the accords with Libya were historic for Turkey and added Ankara was ready to evaluate possible troop deployment.

The separate maritime boundary agreement, signed into law earlier this month, could give Turkey access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The deal has added tension to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece says the deal violates international law, but Turkey has rejected the accusations, saying the accord aims to protect its rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking before the vote, parliamentarians from the ruling party argued the deal would aid the “legitimate government” in Tripoli, ensuring Libya’s stability and Turkey’s interests in the eastern Mediterranean.

Opposition Republican People’s Party legislator Unal Cevikoz said the agreement amounted to meddling in Libya’s internal affairs, violating a UN arms embargo and further destabilizing the country by “adding fuel to fire in Libya.” He said the deal was against Turkey’s interests and created the possibility of putting Turkish troops at risk.

“Do you want to protect the interests of our country? Then don’t be party to the war in Libya. Don’t send weapons and fighters to Libya,” Cevikoz said.

A senior US State Department official on Saturday described the maritime agreement between Ankara and Tripoli as “unhelpful” and “provocative”.

“Now with the maritime boundaries, you’re drawing in Greece and Cyprus... From the United States’ perspective, this is a concern,” the official said. “It’s not the time to be provoking more instability in the Mediterranean.”

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