Turkish naval commander 'in closed-door meeting' with Libyan army chief as fighting rages on

Turkish naval commander 'in closed-door meeting' with Libyan army chief as fighting rages on
Turkey's Admiral Adnan Ozbal has met the Libyan government's Chief of Staff in Tripoli ahead of an expected confrontation between Libyan government forces and troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar
3 min read
01 July, 2020
Turkey has given critical backing to the Libyan Government of National Accord [Getty]
A senior Turkish Naval commander met with the Libyan army's chief of staff, Turkish media reported on Wednesday.

Admiral Adnan Ozbal met with Lieutenant General Mohammed Al-Sharif during a visit to the Libyan capital Tripoli, according to the Turkish Anadolu news agency.

Admiral Ozbal had left for Libya "at the directives of Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar", unnamed security sources told the agency.

The meeting, which was reportedly held behind closed doors, took place at Abu Sitta Naval Base.

Neither party spoke to media after the meeting.

The development comes as tensions soar in the region ahead of a major battle expected to take place between in Sirte forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and rogue General Khalifa Haftar's self-styled "Libyan National Army".

Sirte, which is the hometown of former dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi, sits on the boundary between Libya's east and west.

Turkey intervened in Libya to provide critical support to the GNA in its war against Haftar earlier this year. 

In April 2019, Haftar launched an assault to take Tripoli from the GNA, killing hundreds of people and displacing tens of thousands more but in recent months, the GNA has driven Haftar's troops, who are backed by foreign mercenaries away from western Libya and forced them to retreat towards Sirte.

The GNA has vowed to drive forces loyal to Haftar out of the city, which is a key access point to Libya's oil fields.

Foreign mercenaries fighting on the side of the LNA are now pouring into Sirte, according to media reports published on Monday.

Turkey, which has energy interests in the gas-rich Mediterrenean, has vowed to support the GNA's push for Sirte and demanded the evacuation of Haftar’s forces.

The GNA have shunned talks with Haftar. Late last month, the GNA's Defence Ministry said that it served the interests of "all brothers and friends to return Sirte and al-Jufra to the control of the state".

Read also: Greek FM in Libya for talks with pro-Haftar parliament ahead of Sirte battle 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - a key backer of Haftar - has previously warned the GNA not to advance on Sirte, saying the city was a "red line" for Egypt, and adding that Cairo may directly intervene in Libya to protect its western border. 

"If the Libyan people asked us to intervene, it is a signal to the world that Egypt and Libya share .. common interests, security and stability," Sisi said on Saturday.

The GNA denounced Sisi's warning, saying any intervention would be a threat to Libya's security.

If Egypt's military enters Libya to fight against the Turkish-backed GNA, analysts believe Cairo will likely receive strong support from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have already decalred their approval of Sisi’s "red line" comments.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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