ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he was ready to send troops to Libya if requested by the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli.
“On the issue of sending soldiers … If Libya makes such a request from us, we can send our personnel there, especially after striking the military security agreement,” he said in a televised appearance on December 10.
Turkey signed a military agreement last month with Libya’s Government of National Accord, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and based in Tripoli.
It came after media reports that Russia had sent 200 mercenaries to support rogue field marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is seeking to unseat the Tripoli-based government.
Russia has denied the reports, but Erdogan said: “There is a security company from Russia [in Libya] called Wagner. This company sent its security staff there.”
The Wagner Group is a shadowy private security firm and thousands of its security contractors are believed to be in foreign conflicts from Syria to Ukraine to the Central African Republic.
At the same time as the military deal, Turkey also signed a controversial maritime jurisdiction agreement with Sarraj, giving sweeping rights for Turkey to explore for oil in the Mediterranean.
“With the new line drawn [by the maritime agreement], we will take steps to protect the interests of Libya, Turkey and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus]. This is in line with international law,” he said.
The deal has been staunchly opposed by Greece, Cyprus and their European partners which say it violates the island’s maritime rights.