Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara started moving military units to Libya to support the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, one of the two rival administrations in the North African country.
Sunday’s announcement comes days after Turkey’s parliament approved the deployment of troops in Libya after it received a request for military support from the GNA, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.
The GNA’s request came as it fends off a months-long offensive by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based forces, which have received support from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
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“There will be an operation centre [in Libya], there will be a Turkish lieutenant general leading and they will be managing the situation over there. [Turkish soldiers] are gradually moving there right now,” Erdogan told private broadcaster CNN Turk during an interview.
He said Turkey would not be deploying its own combat forces. “Right now, we will have different units serving as a combatant force,” he said, without giving details on who and how many the fighters would be, as well as where they would come from.
The president said Turkey’s objective was “not to fight”, but “to support the legitimate government and avoid a humanitarian tragedy”.
He said: “Our soldiers’ duty there is coordination. They will develop the operation centre there. Our soldiers are gradually going right now.”
‘Aim to avoid humanitarian tragedy’
Libya was plunged into chaos after the toppling and killing of Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising. Since 2014, it has been split into rival eastern and western administrations.
The GNA currently controls Tripoli in northwestern Libya, and a parallel administration is holding the east of the oil-rich country, supported by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
Last week, Haftar had called on Libyans to take up arms in response to Turkey’s expected military move.
“We accept the challenge and declare jihad and a call to arms,” he said in a televised address on Friday.
He urged “all Libyans” to bear arms, “men and women, soldiers and civilians, to defend our land and our honour”.
The GNA and Turkey signed security and maritime agreements in late November last year, opening the path to the Turkish troop deployment, and angering Mediterranean countries including Greece and Cyprus who also seek to exploit energy resources in the region.
On Saturday, Libya’s eastern-based parliament voted unanimously against the deals the Tripoli-based government signed with Ankara.
On the same day, at least 30 people were killed and 33 others wounded in an attack on a military academy in the Libyan capital, according to the authorities on Tripoli.
Turkey condemned the attack and called for international steps to achieve a ceasefire.
Erdogan willing to meet Greek PM over east Med tensions |NationalTribune.com
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is ready to meet with Greece’s leader to resolve the standoff over energy exploration in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean. The search for gas and oil in the region has sparked a dispute that has seen the two NATO neighbours stage rival air and navy drills in strategic…
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey is ready to meet with Greece’s leader to resolve the standoff over energy exploration in contested waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
The search for gas and oil in the region has sparked a dispute that has seen the two NATO neighbours stage rival air and navy drills in strategic waters between Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.
“Could there be a meeting with Greek Prime Minister (Kyriakos) Mitsotakis? What’s essential is what we discuss and in what framework,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul after Friday prayers.
“We can meet if there is goodwill. We can talk via videoconference or meet in a third country,” Erdogan said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later on Friday said Greek Ambassador Michael-Christos Diamessi had been summoned to the foreign ministry in Ankara over an item in the Dimokratia newspaper.
The words “F*** off Mr. Erdogan” appeared in Turkish and English next to a photo of the president in the Greek newspaper.
“A Greek newspaper had a vile front page,” Cavusoglu said in Ankara. “We summoned the Greek ambassador to the ministry,” he added, quoted by state news agency Anadolu.
At the centre of the Greece-Turkey dispute was Ankara’s deployment last month of a seismic research vessel, the Oruc Reis, and an accompanying fleet of warships in disputed waters near the Greek island of Kastellorizo.
Turkish officials ended the month-long mission and ordered the vessel back to shore last weekend for maintenance and replenishment.
Erdogan also signalled Oruc Reis would return to its work, while also saying its withdrawal was deliberate.
“If we pulled Oruc Reis back to the port for maintenance, it has a meaning,” he said.
“It means: ‘Let’s give a chance to diplomacy, let’s show a positive approach.'”
‘Open to dialogue’
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in Prague on Friday said Greece believed “a dialogue should start and that international law should not be violated. Of course in this area nobody should try to prevail by force”.
He added Greece was “always open to a dialogue with Turkey as regards coastal waters in the exclusive economic zone, provided that Turkey stops its provocative acts in the area”.
Turkey’s Yavuz drillship, meanwhile, will continue its search for oil and gas off Cyprus until October 12 despite international calls to withdraw.
Ankara’s dispute with Athens has sparked a crisis that has drawn in some European Union member states, particularly France which sent navy vessels and fighter jets to the region in support of Greece.
EU leaders are due to discuss possible sanctions against Ankara at their meeting on September 24-25.
“We would like our partners and friends in the EU to draft a list of sanctions which should not be imposed on Turkey immediately but rather serve as an example of sanctions that could be imposed on Turkey if it doesn’t stop its unlawful acts,” Dendias said.
Erdogan: Turkey will make no concessions in eastern Mediterranean |NationalTribune.com
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned he would make “no concessions” in the eastern Mediterranean and that Ankara is determined to do whatever is necessary to obtain its rights in the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean. Speaking at an event on Wednesday commemorating the 11th-century military victory by Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine empire…
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned he would make “no concessions” in the eastern Mediterranean and that Ankara is determined to do whatever is necessary to obtain its rights in the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean.
Speaking at an event on Wednesday commemorating the 11th-century military victory by Seljuk Turks over the Byzantine empire at Malazgirt, Erdogan also called on Turkey’s counterparts to avoid mistakes that he said would bring their destruction.
“We don’t have our eye on someone else’s territory, sovereignty and interests, but we will make no concessions on that which is ours,” Erdogan said, urging Greece to “avoid wrongs that will be the path to ruin”.
“We will not compromise what is ours… We are determined to do whatever is necessary.”
Later on Wednesday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told lawmakers Greece planned to extend the western limit of its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea from six to 12 miles.
Mitsotakis said Italy and Albania had been officially informed about the plan and a bill on the matter would be submitted to parliament very soon.
Such a measure does not affect the Aegean region, off Greece’s eastern and southern coasts, where Turkey has previously warned a similar move by Athens would be a “casus belli”, or cause for war.
Mitsotakis also said his country could eventually extend its territorial waters in other maritime areas where the distance between the two shores is smaller than 24 miles.
Tensions over energy resources escalated between Turkey and Greece after Ankara sent its Oruc Reis survey vessel to disputed eastern Mediterranean waters this month, a move Athens has called illegal.
“Greece will defend in the name of law its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” the country’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said. “Greece will defend its national and European borders. It does not have any other choice but to do so.”
Germany has sought to mediate between Ankara and Athens.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Turkey and Greece said they wanted to solve the matter through dialogue following separate talks with their German counterpart, Heiko Maas.
Al Jazeera’s Sinem Koseoglu, reporting from Istanbul, said Turkey had called Greece “a spoiled child that has unconditional support from the European Union”, and had also stressed the importance of why honest mediation is necessary for dialogue.
“Turkey says it is open to dialogue with Greece only if there is a fair distribution of rights in the eastern Mediterranean,” Koseoglu said.
“But if Athens continues to present conditions for dialogue and doesn’t give up its uncompromising approach in the region, Ankara says a real conflict may become unavoidable.”
What’s behind rising tensions in Eastern Mediterranean?
Military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean
Meanwhile, France is joining military exercises with Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Wednesday.
“The eastern Mediterranean is turning into an area of tension. Respect for international law must be the rule and not the exception,” Parly said on Twitter, adding that it “should not be a playground for the ambitions of some”.
Three Rafale fighter jets and a warship equipped with a helicopter will be part of the joint military exercises, she said.
Relations between France and Turkey have soured in recent months over Ankara’s actions in NATO, Libya and the Mediterranean.
President Emmanuel Macron has called for the EU to show solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in the dispute over natural gas reserves off Cyprus and the extent of their continental shelves and pushed for further sanctions at EU level, although there are divisions in the bloc over the issue.
“Our message is simple: Priority to dialogue, cooperation and diplomacy so that the eastern Mediterranean becomes an area of stability and respect for international law,” Parly said.
Turkey’s Erdogan says Egypt’s actions in Libya are ‘illegal’ |NationalTribune.com
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for supporting forces based in eastern Libya, after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met Libyan tribesmen who urged Cairo to intervene in the war. Turkey has been providing military aid to the United Nations-recognised government in the Libya conflict, while Egypt,…
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for supporting forces based in eastern Libya, after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met Libyan tribesmen who urged Cairo to intervene in the war.
Turkey has been providing military aid to the United Nations-recognised government in the Libya conflict, while Egypt, the UAE and Russia have backed its foes in a rival administration based in the east.
Recent weeks have seen dramatic military advances by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which drove back forces of the eastern renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar who had launched an assault on Tripoli last year.
Eastern-based legislators called this week for Egypt to intervene in the conflict. El-Sisi met Libyan tribesmen on Thursday and said Egypt would not stand idle in the face of a direct threat to Egyptian and Libyan security.
Asked about the possibility of Egyptian intervention, Erdogan said on Friday Turkey would maintain its support for the GNA.
“Steps taken by Egypt here, especially their siding with the putschist Haftar, show they are in an illegal process,” he said. He also described the approach of the UAE as “piratical”.
El-Sisi said last month Egypt’s army might enter Libya if the Tripoli government and its Turkish allies renewed an assault on the central Sirte-Jufrah front line, seen as the gateway to Libya’s main oil export terminals, now held by Haftar’s allies.
Libya has been mired in conflict since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was removed in a NATO-backed operation.
Meanwhile, France’s foreign ministry on Friday rebuffed US assertions that an EU naval mission to enforce a UN weapons embargo for Libya was biased and not serious, saying Washington should itself be doing more to stop the flow of weapons to the North African country.
David Schenker, assistant secretary for Near East Affairs at the US State Department, said on Thursday Europe should go beyond limiting arms-supply interdictions to Turkey by designating Russian military contractor Wagner Group and calling out Moscow and other countries such as the UAE and Egypt over the issue.
In response to Schenker’s comments, French Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters: “We call on all our partners – starting with the United States – to step up their action, as the European Union is doing, to hinder recurrent violations of the arms embargo and to help relaunch a political process inclusive.”
Turkey has intervened decisively in recent weeks in Libya, providing air support, weapons and allied fighters from Syria to help the GNA repel a year-long assault by Haftar.
Turkey accuses France of supporting Haftar politically, having previously given him military assistance to fight armed groups.
France denies this, but relations between the two NATO allies have frayed with Paris repeatedly pointing the finger at Ankara over its role in Libya, while never publicly criticising Egypt or the UAE for their role.
“France is actively participating in this important operation in the context of increased foreign interference in the Libyan conflict, which we have condemned in the strongest terms,” Von der Muhll said.
The UN has previously cited the UAE, Egypt and Turkey for breaching the embargo.
Germany also stressed on Friday the need to uphold the Libyan arms embargo in the wake of el-Sisi’s latest statement.
Speaking at a regular news briefing in Berlin, Christofer Burger, a deputy spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, made clear that the Libyan arms embargo “applied to all sides”.
The German diplomat called for an “immediate end” to foreign military support for the conflict parties.
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