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Turkey’s Military Presence in Libya Legitimate Right, Says Sarraj

Turkey’s Military Presence in Libya Legitimate Right, Says Sarraj

Thursday, 27 February, 2020 - 13:00
GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj leaves after talks with Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the Auberge de Castille in Valletta, Malta May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek

Turkey’s military presence in Libya is a legitimate right and sovereign duty to protect Libyans from “aggressors,” said the head of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) on Wednesday.

Fayez al-Sarraj said the relationship between both countries “dates back to previous eras and is vital at the historical, social, economic, political, security and military levels.

His remarks were made on the sidelines of the 43rd regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“The internationally-recognized GNA has addressed several countries to help it counter attacks by Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), including the United States, Britain and Turkey,” Anadolu news agency quoted Sarraj as saying.

The security and military Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the GNA and Turkey on November 27 includes bilateral cooperation in the military and security fields.

It includes clauses on military training, counter-terrorism and illegal migration.

Sarraj pointed to LNA’s offensive on the capital, Tripoli, in addition to attacks on other areas and cities west of the country.

GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha denied the presence of mercenaries in Libya, stressing that the MoU signed with Turkey is “clear and legitimate.” Ankara has sent “Turkish fighters,” he said.

In an interview with France 24, Bashagha indicated that the deal with Turkey aimed to defend Tripoli “against aggression.”

He also stressed his support for any dialogue that brings Libyans together, despite the lack of confidence, and renewed his refusal to negotiate with Haftar.

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Wednesday that the UN Security Council’s team of experts regularly reports the transfer of foreign armed fighters to Libya.

He said Russia affirms that this process is done with Turkey’s aid.

The Kremlin has earlier reiterated that no Russian military forces are present in Libya, noting that President Vladimir Putin did not issue orders to send Russian soldiers to Libya.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused Russia of sending up to 2,500 mercenaries from the so-called Wagner Group, a private military company, to fight for Haftar in Tripoli.

Russia has been managing the conflict in Libya “at the highest levels,” Erdogan stressed.

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