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Turkey, Egypt raise stakes in Libya

December 15, 2019

Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar is attempting to seize the seat of the UN-backed government in Tripoli. Turkey signaled it was ready to send in troops if requested by the government, while Egypt is backing Haftar.

GNA-alligned fighters near Tripoli
Image: Getty Images/AFP/M. Turkia

Foreign powers should stop intervening in Libya, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said on Sunday, after Turkey indicated it was ready to send in troops to help Libya's UN-backed government.

El-Sissi said the fighting in Libya directly affects Egypt's security.

"We could have intervened in Libya. But we didn't do this and respected Libya's circumstances to preserve fraternity," he said.

The el-Sissi government supports Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar, who earlier this week declared a "final" push to take over Tripoli. He is fighting the forces aligned with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the city.

The Egyptian president has recently pledged a political solution to the Libyan conflict. On Sunday, he said the GNA government was controlled by the allied militias.

"Why does the government there have no free and real will? It's because the government in Tripoli is held hostage to armed and terrorist militias," el-Sissi said in televised comments.

Erdogan meets head of GNA

Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are also seen as Haftar backers. In turn, Qatar and Turkey are siding with the GNA.

Read more: What is Turkey doing in Libya?

Fayez al-Sarraj shakes hands with Turkey's Erdogan
GNA's Fayez al-Sarraj (l) meet with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan on SundayImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Turkish Presidency

Earlier this week, Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was ready to send Turkey's troops to help the GNA if the Libyan officials requested it. A bilateral deal allowing for Ankara's intervention was sent to Turkey's parliament on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj met with Erdogan and Turkey's defense minister, Hulusi Akar, behind closed doors in Istanbul.

Last month, al-Sarraj signed a controversial accord with Ankara that expands Turkey's continental shelf in the eastern Mediterranean. This could allow Turkey access to vast natural gas reserves.

Greece, Egypt and Cyprus have all slammed the deal as contrary to international law.

Libya descended into chaos after the country's long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

dj/dr (dpa, AP, AFP)

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