Assad joins forces with Libya's rogue general Haftar to combat 'Turkish aggression'

Assad joins forces with Libya's rogue general Haftar to combat 'Turkish aggression'
Syrian authorities announced the formation of diplomatic relations with Libya's rogue General Khalifa Haftar on Sunday to combat Turkish aggression in both countries.
3 min read
02 March, 2020
Haftar's forces have been fighting Libya's government fighters to capture Tripoli [Getty]
Damascus and parallel Libyan authorities opposed to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli agreed on Sunday to exchange diplomatic missions and confront Turkish "interference", state media said.

A delegation representing eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Damascus, state news agency SANA said.

"A memorandum of understanding was signed... for the reopening of diplomatic and consular missions," SANA said.

Libya has not had any representation in Damascus since 2012, following the fall and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in an uprising.

Read also: Syria Weekly: Turkey retaliation blocks regime's advance in Idlib

Muallem said diplomatic missions would be reopened in Damascus and the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, controlled by Haftar's forces.

The two sides also pledged to coordinate to "confront Turkish interference and aggression against both countries".

Turkey backs the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the Libyan capital Tripoli, and has dispatched troops and pro-Turkish Syrian fighters to the North African country.

Haftar, backed by the Syrian regime's main ally Russia, has been battling since April to seize Tripoli from the GNA.

Syria's conflict, sparked by the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.

The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in November 2011 as the death toll mounted.

Several regional powers suspended diplomatic ties with Damascus after the brutal suppression of protests by President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Some have since restored those ties. In December 2018, the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy, followed by Bahrain.

The agreement comes as tensions spiral between Syrian regime and Turkish forces in northwestern Syria, where bombardment has killed dozens of troops on each side.

On Sunday, at least 19 regime soldiers were killed in Turkish drone strikes targeting a military convoy in the Jabal Al-Zawiya area and a base near Maarat Al-Numan city, a war monitor reported.

That came after Turkish forces "targeted" two Syrian regime planes over the embattled rebel bastion of Idlib in northwest Syria, just moments following an announced military operation dubbed "Operation Spring Shield".

"Following the heinous attack on 27 February in Idlib, operation 'Spring Shield' successfully continues," Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a televised speech.

Read also: Erdogan vows to liberate all of Libya from Russian-backed General Haftar

"We don't have the desire or intention to clash with Russia," the minister added. Thirty-four Turkish troops have been killed in Syria since Thursday.

"Our intention is to stop the regime's massacres, and prevent... migration," he said.

"We expect Russia to stop the regime's attacks and to use their influence to ensure the regime withdraws to the borders of the Sochi agreement."

Turkey has 12 observation posts established in rebel-held Idlib following a 2018 deal between Ankara and Moscow signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

But the regime recently has pressed ahead with an assault, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing nearly a million to flee from their homes in the region.

Rebel-supporter Turkey and Damascus ally Russia previously worked closely to prevent a regime offensive in Idlib despite being on opposing sides of the nine-year war.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month warned Damascus to get behind the agreed borders otherwise Ankara would use military force to push the regime back.

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