Ankara reiterates intent to continue intervening in Libya
ANKARA--Turkey's National Security Council, the main body coordinating the country's security and military policies, said Tuesday after a meeting attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that it will continue to provide "military advice" to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
According to news reports, Ankara has sent an undetermined number of Turkish military personnel and thousands of mercenaries from Syria to Libya to fight alongside the GNA militants and militias loyal to Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj against the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar.
It has also provided the GNA with military equipment, including air drones which have played a crucial role in recent battles in Tripoli and the rest of Libya's northwest.
"We will continue providing military advice to the legitimate government of Libya for the purpose of establishing peace and stability," said a statement issued by the council and relayed by Turkish press agency ANA.
Erdogan has admitted several times providing Tripoli with military support, including delivery of arms and equipment, despite a UN embargo on arm sales to Libya.
The Turkish National Security Council also endorsed the gas drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean despite the objection of Greece, Cyprus and other countries of the region.
"We have also discussed the stances of nations that are hostile to our to our legitimate activities in the Mediterranean and stressed our determination to continue protecting our interests at land, air and sea, without any concessions," the council said.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said last week his country may begin oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean this summer under the deals signed with Libya.
Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias replied that his country “stands ready to deal with this provocation should Turkey decide to implement this decision."
Deals signed between Turkey and Libya's GNA last November paved the way for Turkish military intervention in Libya and produced a maritime border demarcation map allowing Turkey to expand drilling and exploration in the Mediterranean.
The displayed unwillingness to make any "concessions" over oil-and-gas drilling could be a sign of forthcoming escalation in tensions between Turkey and Greece. The endorsement by the Turkish National Security Council of a hardline stance in the maritime demarcation dispute is likely to be interpreted in Turkey as encouragement by the military and security establishment to Erdogan to continue his aggressive and increasingly militarised policies in the region.
In return, the Turkish military gets to play a greater role in the country's politics and diplomacy. Ironically, such a role has received a boost since the mass crackdown on civilian opponents and military officers accused of sympathies to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen since the 2016 aborted coup against Erdogan. Prosecutors in Istanbul issued warrants on Tuesday for the detention of 118 military personnel over their alleged ties to the Gulen network
The council asserted in its statement that Ankara " will continue working to safeguard Syria's territorial integrity and clear the area from terrorists so as to enable Syrians to return to their country."