Turkey adamant about keeping military presence in Libya
ANKARA – Turkish troops stationed in Libya will remain there as long as a bilateral military agreement between Ankara and Tripoli is active and Libya’s government requests it, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Thursday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey would discuss withdrawing its troops, who Ankara says are providing military training to Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), if other foreign powers are withdrawn first.
In an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber, Kalin said Turkish companies would also play an active role in the efforts to rebuild war-torn Libya, adding that Ankara would provide support to the newly elected interim government.
Libya entered a new transitional phase with elections last Friday in Switzerland under the auspices of the United Nations.
Mohammad al-Menfi , a diplomat from eastern Libya, was picked to head the Presidential Council, which includes two other officials. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also chose Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata, as interim prime minister.
Each member of the three-man council represents a region of old Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east and Fezzan in the south-west. The appointment of an interim government capped months of UN-brokered talks that resulted in an agreement to hold elections on December 24.
Ankara claims the presence of members of its armed forces in Libya is aimed at training the units loyal to the GNA, a pretext for rejecting compliance with the requirements of Libya’s ceasefire agreement, which calls for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from the country.
Under the ceasefire agreement reached by Libyan rivals on October 23, foreign forces and mercenaries are required to leave the country during the three months following the signing of the agreement, that is, by January 23. No mercenary forces have withdrawn from Libya despite the expiration of the deadline stipulated in the agreement.
In previous statements, Turkish presidential adviser Yasin Aktay confirmed that the new Libyan government does not oppose his country’s military presence in Libya.
Aktay indicated in a statement to Russia’s Sputnik news agency that agreements Turkey concluded with the previous Libyan government, headed led by Fayez al-Sarraj, as well as Turkey’s military presence in Libya, would not be affected by the election of a new interim government.
Turkey directly intervened in Libya to support the GNA, deploying Syrian mercenaries and sending military equipment to push back the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar during the LNA’s offensive to regain control of the capital Tripoli.
Observers believe that the success of the political path set by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) remains dependent on the cessation of foreign intervention that has deepened differences between Libyan factions.
However, the non-compliance of foreign players, especially Turkey, which has sent thousands of mercenaries to Libya, is raising doubts about the possible success of the ceasefire agreement and the overall transitional process.