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Putin, Merkel Discuss Libya as Turkish Opposition Rejects Troop Deployment

Putin, Merkel Discuss Libya as Turkish Opposition Rejects Troop Deployment

Monday, 30 December, 2019 - 12:00
A courtyard empty of students inside a closed school as teachers strike in support of demands for a salary increase in Benghazi, Libya October 17, 2019. (Reuters)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed efforts to reach a diplomatic solution for the Libyan conflict in separate phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose government intends to send troops to Libya, a government spokesman said on Monday.

Turkey's foreign minister has warned that the Libyan conflict risks sliding into chaos and becoming the next Syria, as he sought to speed up domestic legislation to allow Ankara to send troops to the North African country.

Last week, Erdogan announced his government's decision to seek parliamentary consent to send troops to Libya, at the request of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. The troops would help to defend the GNA against General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA).

A German foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin said Germany was following the reports about Turkey's military plans in Libya with "great concern".

He urged all involved parties to exercise maximum restraint, respect an international embargo for arms exports to Libya and step up efforts for a diplomatic solution.

"A further exchange was agreed to strengthen diplomatic efforts," the government spokesman said, adding that Merkel also discussed the developments in Syria with Erdogan and Putin during the phone calls, which took place on Sunday.

Germany has offered to host an international peace conference on Libya that the United Nations is planning. The conference could take place in Berlin after a planned meeting between Erdogan and Putin in January.

Meanwhile, Turkey's main opposition party said on Monday it opposes a bill to allow a troop deployment to Libya, arguing such a move would exacerbate the country's conflict and cause it to spread across the region.

Speaking after talks with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on the bill, Unal Cevikoz, deputy chairman for the Republican People's Party (CHP), said his party opposed such a move.

"We believe diplomacy should be prioritized, rather than being a party to a proxy war. What is being done is making preparations to worsen the current situation, and we conveyed to the minister that this is not right," Cevikoz said.

"Sending troops there in this case will expand the effects of the conflicts in the region and cause them to spread... We view the bill negatively," he added.

The CHP has previously supported parliamentary bills to send troops into northern Syria, where Turkey has carried out three cross-border operations in three years. However, it has said it did not approve of Turkish military actions beyond its frontier.

Cavusoglu subsequently met the opposition Iyi Party leader to discuss the troop deployment bill. Erdogan has said the bill will be presented to parliament in early January.

Last month, Turkey signed two separate accords with the GNA, one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara has also sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations embargo, according to a UN report seen by Reuters last month.

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