Turkey will be sending its military to train the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Libya.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the move on Friday, days after he apparently backed off on an earlier promise to deploy ground troops to the war-torn African country. The Turkish leader told journalists on Monday that a group of military “advisers” had been sent to Libya in the troops’ stead.
The Turkish personnel will train the forces of Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli-based and UN-backed Government of National Accord. The GNA has been engaged in a prolonged conflict with the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar.
Haftar’s forces are in control of most of Libya, and at one point last year threatened to overrun Tripoli. After peace talks in Berlin last weekend, a fragile ceasefire between Haftar and al-Sarraj remains in place, but no lasting agreement has yet been reached.
Though Erdogan has played a central role in peace talks alongside Russia, both in Berlin and earlier in Moscow, he has openly backed al-Sarraj, and vowed earlier this month to teach the“putschist” Haftar “a lesson,” should the LNA’s offensive on Tripoli continues.
Turkey’s intervention in the Libyan conflict drew condemnation from the EU, and from the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, and Italy. In a joint statement earlier this month, the ministers said that Ankara’s “interference” was “fuelling the crisis.”
Turkey’s neighbor and regional rival Greece responded to Erdogan’s propping up of the GNA by offering to deploy forces on Haftar’s side, supposedly to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire. For its part, Athens bitterly opposes a maritime borders agreement between Turkey and the GNA, which would allow oil and gas exploration in a region of the Mediterranean it claims as its own.