Turkey warns Libya's Haftar and supporters against attacking its forces

Reuters , Sunday 27 Dec 2020

Turkey is the main foreign backer of the Tripoli-based GNA that has been fighting Haftar's LNA that is backed by Egypt, Russia and the UAE

Hulusi Akar
Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, left, and Khalid al-Mishri, Chairman of the High Council of State to the Government of National Accord of Libya, speak during a meeting, in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, Dec, 26, 2020 AP

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar warned on Sunday that the forces of Khalifa Haftar and their supporters based in eastern Libya would be viewed as "legitimate targets" if they attempted to attack Turkish forces in the region.

Turkey is the main foreign backer of the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, which for years has been fighting Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). The LNA is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

In October, the GNA and LNA signed a ceasefire agreement and the United Nations has been pushing a political dialogue aimed at elections next year as a solution. Russia on Wednesday called for international efforts toward a peace settlement in Libya to be intensified.

Speaking during a visit to Turkish troops in Tripoli, Akar said Haftar had recently started making calls targeting Turkish forces in Libya and calling for attacks on Turkish troops, and also called on all parties to support political talks instead.

"They should get this in their heads. If they do something like this, they will have nowhere to run," he said. "Everyone should contribute to reaching a political solution here. Any move other than this is wrong," Akar said. 

Turkey has sent military personnel and equipment to the GNA, helping to turn the tide of the war in Libya, while engaging in talks with Moscow for a solution to the conflict between the GNA and LNA.

Turkey has stopped short of withdrawing forces from the frontline, as demanded by the truce.

Last month, Turkey and Germany traded barbs over the search of a Turkish freight ship by a European Union military mission in the Mediterranean aimed at enforcing the Libyan arms embargo, in a move Ankara called illegal.

This month, the LNA also intercepted a Turkish ship, under a Jamaican flag, heading to the port of Misrata, prompting an angry rebuke from Ankara. The ship was later released.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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