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Turkey has the 'right' to intervene in Libya if asked, says Erdogan

شعار The New ArabThe New Arab 10/12/2019 The New Arab

© Provided by TheNewArab © Provided by TheNewArab Turkey and Libya's Government of National Accord signed a controversial maritime and security agreement last month.

Turkish soldiers could be deployed in Libya if the North African country's UN-recognised government were to make a request, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.

"If Libya were to invite Turkey, of course Turkey would have the right to go to Libya as per the accord," the Turkish leader said in a televised interview with public broadcaster TRT, referencing a maritime pact signed by the two countries late last month.

"We are prepared to give all manner of support to Libya," he added.

Ankara is a key backer of Libya's internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli.

Rogue General Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) launched an assault on the capital in April with the aim to topple the GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Russian mercenaries have been accused of backing his forces as they near Tripoli.

"Haftar is not a national representative of Libya there, Sarraj is," Erdogan told TRT.

While Turkey has supplied GNA forces with drones, Ankara has not yet become involved in the Libyan conflict with its own forces.

The United Nations has accused Turkey, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates of regularly breaking an arms embargo imposed on Libya since 2011.

The three countries "routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons with little effort to disguise the source," a summary of a year-long study by the UN experts said.

The UAE, a prominent Haftar backer, is also suspected of using attack aircraft on behalf of his forces.

Read more: Could Turkey-Libya maritime pact lead to an energy showdown in the Med?

Turkey's parliament last week endorsed the controversial deal on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean reached between Turkey and the GNA.

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Erdogan claims the pact sanctions a Turkish intervention in the country if the GNA calls for it.

Legislators approved the agreement which would give Turkey access to an economic zone across the Mediterranean, brushing aside objections by Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and warlord Haftar.

Greece has since expelled the Libyan ambassador in Athens over the deal.

The deal has added further tension to an ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil-and-gas drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Erdogan said on Monday that Turkey and Libya could hold joint exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

The president said Turkey would obtain another drilling ship for the eastern Mediterranean, adding that Ankara could enlarge exploration efforts to the Black Sea and even international waters.

Turkey already has ships searching for oil and gas off Cyprus, which has also fueled tension with the island and the European Union. Brussels has threatened sanctions to deter Ankara's activities there.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two competing governments, one in the east, based in Benghazi, and the other in the west, in Tripoli.

While the LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia and key Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

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