Mismari says US ignores Turkey’s role in Libya as it focuses on Russia’s
TRIPOLI--Russia has not sent any military personnel to Libya, a Russian senator said on Wednesday.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the upper house’s international affairs committee, was quoted by Russia’s Interfax as saying no Russian military personnel was sent to Libya and that the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.
Speaking Tuesday on the pan-Arab TV channel Al Arabiya, LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said it was strange that the US “mentioned Russian planes but made no mention of those of Turkey.”
The US military had accused Russia Tuesday of deploying “fourth generation” fighter planes to Libya to support the LNA in its offensive on the capital, Tripoli.
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) also said the Russian military aircraft arrived in Libya recently from an airbase in Russia via Syria.
“Russian military aircraft are likely to provide close air support and offensive fire,” AFRICOM said in a statement posted on its website and on Twitter.
Experts say the most significant development in the US’s stance on the Libyan conflict is its portrayal of Russia’s role as a threat to Western interests, thus transforming it into a NATO issue.
The Atlantic alliance’s 2011 military campaign led to the fall of the regime of longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi and to continued internal strife.
A US statement quoted US Air Force General Jeff Harrigian Tuesday as expressing concern that if Russia seized bases on Libya’s coast, it would “create very real security concerns on Europe’s southern flank.”
The US warning seems to implicitly condone Turkish military intervention on the side of the Islamist-backed GNA.
Mismari said the “Turkish military intervention is dangerous and Arabs should stand up to it.”
He accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “recruiting sons of Arabs to kill Arabs” and said “some of the Syrians are fighting in Syria because of Turkish intimidation.”
According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), “a new batch of 500 Turkish-backed mercenaries” were recently dispatched to Libya to fight on the side of militants and militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj against LNA forces led by Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
The total number of mercenary recruits sent to Libya so far stands at 10,100, said the SOHR Sunday.
An additional 3,400 are reportedly receiving training in Turkey.
According to Mismari, Ankara has sent about 2,000 military personnel on top of the mercenaries it has dispatched from Syria.
He added that Qatar is currently “equipping al-Watiya airbase for Turkey’s use.”
The airbase, located in Libya’s north-west, was captured by GNA-allied militias on May 18 after Ankara stepped up its military and intelligence intervention on the ground.