Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would seek parliamentary approval for a plan to send troops to Libya in response to what he characterized as a call for support by the country’s beleaguered Tripoli-based government.
If ratified, the decision could shift a precarious balance in Libya’s ongoing conflict, which has pitted foreign powers including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates in support of rogue Libyan field marshal Khalifa Haftar’s offensive against the Libyan Government of National Accord in Tripoli.
“We will present the motion to send troops [to Libya] as soon as parliament resumes” on January 7, Erdogan said in a Thursday speech in Ankara.
“God willing, we will pass it in parliament on January 8-9 and thus respond to an invitation” from the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord, he said.
Bloomberg and Middle East Eye also cited anonymous Turkish officials as discussing plans to deploy Syrian opposition fighters under Turkey’s military command to join the fight in Tripoli. The reports could not be independently verified by The Defense Post.
Reuters cited an unnamed Tripoli official on Thursday as saying that the GNA, led by Fayez al-Serraj, had formally requested military support from Turkey following an earlier offer by Erdogan.
Erdogan’s announcement comes less than a week after Turkey’s parliament ratified an agreement with the Tripoli-based government on security and military cooperation. That deal followed an earlier agreement between Ankara and the GNA on maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean, drawing condemnation from Greece and Egypt.
The security agreement alone did not authorize Turkey to send troops to support the GNA in its conflict against Haftar’s forces. The Turkish president hosted Serraj in Istanbul earlier this month.
Haftar’s militias have seized swaths of the oil-rich country’s east and south in recent years, exploiting intermittent periods of civil war since the 2011 overthrow of long-time leader Moammar Qaddafi in a popular uprising backed by a NATO air campaign.
Turkey has already sent up-armored troop carriers and other equipment to the Tripoli government in violation of a U.N. arms embargo on Libya.
Haftar’s LNA has received backing from Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
Erdogan earlier this month suggested Turkey may send troops to aid the GNA to counter Russian paramilitary contractors under the Wagner group reportedly aiding Haftar-aligned militias on the outskirts of Tripoli.
Russia and Egypt have criticized Erdogan’s offer of military support for the GNA.
President Donald Trump and Egypt’s leader Abdel Fattah El-Sisi spoke on the phone on Thursday and rejected “foreign exploitation” of the conflict in Libya and calling on all sides to end the fighting, the White House said.
Sisi reiterated Egypt’s support for Haftar in a phone call with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday.
The Trump administration has sent conflicting messages on Haftar’s offensive, but has most recently condemned the operation and criticized Russia’s involvement in the fighting. Russia has not acknowledged having forces in Libya.
The U.S. State Department said last week it was “concerned” over the GNA’s request for outside military support “and by the LNA’s threat to use foreign-supplied air assets and mercenaries to attack Misrata.”
Haftar’s LNA recently warned forces from the nearby coastal city of Misrata to leave Tripoli. The Misratan militias are seen as a key player in defending the western capital from Haftar’s forces.
The LNA offensive has killed more than 1,000 people, according to the World Health Organization, and displaced more than 120,000 others.
With reporting from AFP