Turkey can deploy troops in Libya if invited by the Government of National Accord (an ‘internationally recognized’ entity that controls Tripoli and its surroundings) there, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told state-run TRT television on December 9.
“The moment there is such an invitation from the Libyan people and administration,” Erdogan said that “gives us the right.”
On November 27, Ankara signed a defense agreement with the Govrnment of National Accord (GNA). The formal goal of the deal is to strengthen forces controlled by the GNA’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj as the Libyan capital is under siege from the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar.
The LNA describes the advance on Tripoli as an anti-terrorism operation because the GNA cooperates with al-Qaeda-linked groups. Haftar promised that the LNA would enter Tripoli by the end of 2019. Erdogan says that the possible deployment of Turkish soldiers in Libya would not amount to violating the United Nations’ Libya embargo.
“The activity of sending soldiers in response to such a call from Libya’s national government can never be interpreted” as a violation of the UN embargo, Erdogan noted. “Turkey would decide on what kind of initiative it will take if it receives such an invitation.”
Turkey is one of the key backers of the GNA in its fight with the Libyan National Army. The problem is that the GNA controls only a small chunk of the country in the north and has a very bad PR because of its affilation with various radical groups, which are the core of the pro-GNA force. This reminds the situation in Syria where Turkey also backs militant groups known for cooperating with radicals and even al-Qaeda in order to pursue its own geostrategic goals.
Just recently, Turkey and the GNA signed a memorandum on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea. It remains unclear how the GNA that controls only several towns can present Libya on the international stage. Nonetheless, Ankara was very satisfied with results.
On December 9, Erdogan said that Turkey and the GNA can carry out joint exploration operations in the eastern Mediterranean after the two sides signed a deal on maritime boundaries. Erdogan claimed the accord would also allow Turkey to carry out drilling on Libya’s continental shelf with Tripoli’s approval. The area where Turkey and Libya have drawn their maritime borders in the accord is close to the large Greek island of Crete.