Erdogan says Turkey to ship more troops to Libya, grant exploration rights for eastern Mediterranean

Erdogan says Turkey to ship more troops to Libya, grant exploration rights for eastern Mediterranean
Turkey deployed a small number of military advisors to aid Libya's Tripoli-based government earlier this month.
3 min read
16 January, 2020
Ankara signed controversial military and maritime pacts with Tripoli last year [Getty]
Turkey will send more troops to Libya in support of the country's United Nations-backed government, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, adding that Ankara would grant licenses for exploration and drilling in the eastern Mediterranean this year.

Erdogan is due to meet with the leaders of Russia, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom on Sunday to address the ongoing conflict.

Speaking in Ankara on Thursday, the president said Turkey would continue to use all diplomatic and military means to ensure stability.

"In order for the legitimate government in Libya to remain standing and for stability to be established, we are now sending our soldiers to this country," Erdogan said.

Moscow and Ankara earlier this month announced a joint ceasefire effort, paving the way for the two powers to become peace brokers in future negotiations over Libya. 

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Turkey backs the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), while Russia supports rogue General Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the country's east.

Haftar launched his offensive on the capital Tripoli in April last year.

Ankara and Tripoli signed controversial military and maritime cooperation deals late last year.

Read more: Haftar hightails it from Russia, leaving hopes for peace in his wake

Turkey's military cooperation agreement with Libya opened the doors for Ankara to send troops to support the GNA.

Erdogan earlier this month said Turkey had sent a training and cooperation team to Libya to develop an operations centre in Tripoli. That deployment was for "coordination" purposes, he said, with officials denying Turkish troops would take part in fighting.

Ankara has reportedly deployed more than 2,000 Syrian rebels in recent weeks to support the Tripoli-based government but details of a further Turkish troop deployment remain unclear.

After talks in Moscow aimed at halting Haftar's offensive on the capital failed to yield a binding ceasefire agreement on Monday, the Turkish president said Ankara would not refrain from "teaching a lesson" to the LNA if its attacks continue.

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Haftar and Fayez al-Sarraj, prime minister of the Tripoli-based GNA, have also been invited to the Sunday's summit in Berlin, where representatives from the United Nations and foreign powers including Russia, the US and Turkey will discuss the conflict. It is unclear whether either will attend.

Erdogan said on Thursday that Ankara will begin granting licenses for exploration and drilling the eastern Mediterranean this year, according to Reuters.

The maritime pact reached by Tripoli and Ankara gives Turkey rights to large swathes of the Mediterranean where gas reserves have recently been discovered, angering other countries in the region including Greece and Cyprus who deny Turkey's claims over the waters. 

The European Union has previously threatened sanctions over Turkish gas exploration off the coast of Cyprus.

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