Friday

24th Jan 2020

EU rejects Turkish troops in Libya

  • The Libyan capital, Tripoli, where at least 30 people were killed in a air attack at the weekend and which is now under threat general Khalifa Haftar (Photo: hakeem.gadi)

The EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell - along with a handful of leading EU states - have rejected Turkish military presence and deployment in Libya.

Following a meeting with foreign ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom, Borrell on Tuesday (7 January) called for an immediate ceasefire in and around Tripoli.

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He told reporters in Brussels that outside interference in Libya was only making the crisis worse.

"It is obvious that this makes a reference to the Turkish decision to intervene with their troops in Libya which is something we reject and increases our situation of worries in Libya," he said.

The move follows a flare-up of fighting in Libya as Turkey deployed troops to support the UN-backed government of national accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

An insurgency from the east of the country led by general Khalifa Haftar is said to have been behind an air strike over the weekend that killed at least 30 people in the besieged capital.

Turkey's government has since claimed their involvement in Libya is part of a coordination effort to develop an operation centre.

"Our soldiers' duty there is coordination. They will develop the operation centre there. Our soldiers are gradually going right now," Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the CNN Turk TV channel.

Turkey's Grand National Assembly's had earlier this month authorised military deployments in Libya.

Without citing Turkey, an ensuing joint statement by the foreign ministers and Borrell further demanded the need "to avoid unilateral actions such as the signing of agreements".

It also described such actions as a pretext for outside interference and contrary to European interests.

Turkey late last year signed a maritime deal with the GNA, as part of a wider effort to secure massive gas reserves discovered off the southern coast of Cyprus.

"The EU should this time show how to be the EU," said Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on his Facebook page, describing the crisis in Libya as more important to Italy's interests than the conflict in Iran.

Di Maio was set to travel to Turkey on Tuesday to discuss Libya amid a flurry of meetings. He is also set to join his counterparts from Greece, Cyprus, France, and Egypt in Cairo on Wednesday.

A separate meeting among all EU foreign ministers to discuss Iran is also scheduled for Friday in Brussels. Borrell noted it would also be an opportunity to assess positions of other member states on any further EU actions that may be needed in Libya.

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