LNA says Turks 'fear implications' of Sirte-Jufra offensive

Bassem Aly , Monday 20 Jul 2020

The GNA, backed by Turkish troops, Syrian mercenaries and Qatar, exists in Tripoli and controls Libya’s western and northwestern areas

File photo: Vehicles of the "Tripoli Brigade", a terrorist militia loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), parade through the Martyrs' Square at the centre of the GNA-held Libyan capital Tripoli on July 10, 2020. (AFP)

The Government of National Accord's (GNA) interior minister Fathi Bashagha met Turkey's defence minister Hulusi Akar on Monday as the Libyan National Army (LNA) said Ankara "fears the implications" of its expected attack on the port city of Sirte and Al-Jufra in Libya. 

The meeting in Ankara between Bashagha and Akar came as the GNA is reportedly preparing to launch an attack against the two Libyan cities. Akar, according to Al-Arabiya, said support to the LNA and its leader Khalifa Haftar should stop.

He claimed that Turkish actions in the eastern Mediterranean region are an "attempt to guarantee peace and stability," arguing it "will be a model for the world."

Turkey signed an accord with the GNA last year to create an exclusive economic zone from Turkey’s southern Mediterranean shore to Libya’s northeast coast. Some of the areas involved are around Cyprus, and the latter accuses Turkey of searching for gas in its territorial waters.

The LNA, allied to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), controls Libya’s oil-rich, eastern regions. Egypt, France, Russia and the United Arab Emirates back the LNA.

The GNA, backed by Turkish troops, Syrian mercenaries and Qatar, exists in Tripoli and controls Libya’s western and northwestern areas. According to a recent report by the US Defense Department, Turkey sent between 3,500 and 3,800 Syrian mercenaries to Libya in January, February, and March 2020.

Speaking to Sky News Arabia on Sunday, Brigadier-General Khaled Al-Mahgoub, an LNA leading commander, said Turkey "has fears about the implications of launching an attack on Sirte and Al-Jufra." 

"In their rooms of operations, the Turks are precisely examining the offensive, and they are afraid about its implications, for the war might get larger in scale and go beyond Sirte and Al-Jufra," Al-Mahgoub said, asserting that the LNA is ready to block any Turkish attack on both cities.

"Erdogan was adviced to launch a quick and sweeping offensive to fulfil the Turkish objective as soon as possible. But this will not happen because the LNA troops, in addition to the Arab backing, are strongly deployed."

The Turkish-backed militias are moving near Sirte as an attempt to inflate the Turkish military power, Al-Mahgoub said.

In June, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called on Libyan parties “to respect the current lines and start negotiations.” El-Sisi said that Sirte and Jufra are "considered a red line for Egyptian national security."

He also said that Egypt has called for a comprehensive settlement in Libya that involves the elimination of terrorist militias and has participated in Libya-related international conferences. 

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