Turkey speeds up Libya troop deployment deal to prevent slide into 'chaos'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting of his ruling AK Party in Ankara, Turkey, on Dec 26, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

ANKARA (REUTERS) - Turkey's foreign minister warned that the Libyan conflict risks sliding into chaos and becoming the next Syria, as he sought to speed up legislation to allow it to send troops to the North African country.

Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli has been struggling to fend off Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's forces, which have been supported by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan.

"If today Libya becomes like Syria, then the turn will come for the other countries in the region," Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday (Dec 28) at a meeting of the governing AK Party.

"We need to do whatever is needed to prevent Libya from being divided and slide into chaos, and that is what we are doing. It is the legitimate government there that we deal with," he said, stressing that the military and security deal signed with Libya is important.

Mr Cavusoglu will meet with three opposition party leaders on Monday and the government is expected to discuss the motion within the coming week.

Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his government's decision to seek parliamentary consent to send troops to Libya to defend the United Nations-backed GNA in Tripoli against Field Marshal Haftar's forces.

Field Marshal Haftar's fighters have failed to reach the centre of Tripoli, but have made small gains in recent weeks in some southern suburbs of the capital with the help of Russian and Sudanese fighters, as well as drones shipped by the UAE, diplomats say.

The Chinese-made drones have given Field Marshal Haftar "local air superiority", as they can carry over eight times the weight of explosives than the drones given to the GNA by Turkey and can also cover the whole of Libya, a United Nations report said in November.

Last month, Ankara signed two separate accords with the GNA, led by Mr Fayez al-Serraj, one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

The GNA said on Sunday that a video circulating online purportedly showing Syrian fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya were false.

It claimed the recording, which shows a number of men in military fatigues beside a fence, was actually shot in the Syrian province of Idlib. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.

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