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SEPTEMBER 2020

Turkish Military Deployment to Libya Edges Closer After Erdogan Meeting With GNA Leader

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Turkish Military Deployment to Libya Edges Closer After Erdogan Meeting With GNA Leader

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On December 15th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Prime Minister of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj, behind closed doors.

During their previous meeting in Istanbul on November 27th, the two countries made a deal on security and military cooperation, as well as maritime jurisdiction.

Following the closed doors meeting, Erdogan said that Turkey was ready to provide Tripoli any military support it needed after Ankara and Libya’s internationally recognized government signed the deal.

“We will be protecting the rights of Libya and Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Erdogan said. “We are more than ready to give whatever support necessary to Libya.”

A statement from Sarraj’s office said his talks in Istanbul were regarding the latest developments in Libya and security and economic cooperation with Ankara.

Khalifa Haftar, who leads forces in eastern Libya, “is not a legitimate leader … and is representative of an illegal structure,” Erdogan said after meeting in Istanbul with Fayez al-Sarraj.

The maritime deal was sent to the United Nations for approval, the military deal has been presented to Turkey’s Parliament.

On December 14th, the GNA leader had met in Doha with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.

The meeting was also behind closer doors, but it should be expected that the GNA may officially request assistance from Turkey as soon as Turkish parliament passes the defense cooperation deal.

According to Anadolu Agency, the deal seeks “provide a ground for relations and develop cooperation” between Turkey and Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), the agreement includes increased cooperation in the exchange of personnel, materials, equipment, consultancy and experience between the two sides.

The agreement also offers Turkish support for the establishment of a Quick Reaction Force for police and military in Libya, as well as enhanced cooperation on intelligence and defense industry, among others.

On December 15th, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the military cooperation deal simply needed to pass in parliament and that it would happen soon.

“Parliament will enter it into force after approval,” Cavusoglu said.

Meanwhile, an alleged pilot from Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) was captured by GNA forces after his MiG-23 fighter jet was downed.

He said that Russia and the UAE were the principal supporters of the LNA. According to him, Russia planned tactics and UAE operated drones.

Amer Al-Jagam, who is an assistant commander of Haftar’s Air Force and commander of Al-Watiya airbase provided information about what Russia and the UAE were allegedly doing.

“Several Russians were killed and others were injured as they came under artillery shelling by Volcano of Rage Operation in Qasir Benghashir. While, a number of UAE officers were also killed in airstrikes by Volcano of Rage Operation warplanes on Al-Jufra airbase. Remaining UAE officers left the airbase afterwards.” Al-Jagam said, essentially giving the GNA forces a bit of advertisement.

He indicated that airstrikes on Tajoura, Misrata, Mitiga Airports, Zuwara and others were carried out by Emirati aircraft, saying the Air Force was tasked to pave the way for the ground troops to advance but the ground fighters always failed to advance.

“The pilot who carried out Furnaj airstrike that killed three children was a Libyan national and he took off from Al-Watiya airbase.” Al-Jagam said.

Notably, Egypt, which also supports the LNA isn’t mentioned at all, but that is also likely because Cairo is quite near Tripoli and a threat much more real than Russia and the UAE.

On December 15th, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that al-Serraj’s GNA was being held hostage by “armed and terrorist militias.” Khalifa Haftar has also made the same claim, more than once.

“[The GNA] is not able to have a free and real will because they have been taken hostage by armed and terrorist militias there.”

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar on December 12th ordered his forces to advance on Tripoli for a “final battle,” to end the offensive that began in April 2019 and has been at a standstill for a while.

Over the December 15th weekend, heavy fighting raged for a 24-hour period between his troops and militias allied fighting for the GNA.

The LNA’s media office shared images of reinforcements arriving in Tripoli, including ground troops and pick-up trucks with mounted machine guns and of clashes in southern parts of the city.

The propaganda is on-going, as the LNA claimed to have taken control of al-Tawghaar, just south of Tripoli, while GNA denied the information.

It is likely that the LNA is feeling the urgency of the situation escalating out of control if Turkey is called in for military assistance and feels that “zero hour” has come.

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