Libya’s United Nations-recognised government has accepted an offer from Turkey for military and logistical support as it seeks to repel an offensive led by forces loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement on Thursday that its cabinet had “unanimously approved the implementation of the memorandum of understanding on security and military cooperation between the GNA and the Turkish government signed on November 27”.
The GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, met in the presence of military officials.
It gave no further details about the terms of the agreement or the assistance Ankara could provide to pro-GNA forces.
Last month, the GNA and Turkey signed a deal on maritime boundaries, angering Greece and Egypt, and also signed another pact on military cooperation.
Libya splintered into a patchwork of competing power bases following the NATO-backed overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The country has been split into rival eastern and western administrations since 2014, with the GNA currently controlling Tripoli, situated in northwestern Libya, and a parallel administration holding the east of the oil-rich country, supported by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
Haftar’s forces in April launched a campaign to wrestle control of the capital, but have been unable to break through the GNA’s defences. Last week, Haftar said that a “decisive battle” to capture the city would commence imminently.
Turkish officials have previously said Ankara may send troops to Libya if the GNA requested it, but Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday that no such request had been made yet.
On Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was ready to help the GNA.
“We will speed up the process between Turkey and Libya. We told them that we are always ready to help if they need it. From military and security cooperation, to steps taken regarding our maritime rights – we are ready,” Erdogan was cited as saying by broadcaster NTV.
That came after the Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan would discuss Ankara’s offer to provide military support to the GNA during talks in Turkey scheduled to take place next month.
‘Russia exerting itself’
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow on Thursday, Putin said he wanted to see an end to the conflict in Libya and then see talks between the two opposing sides begin.
Putin said he would discuss Libya with a Turkish delegation in Russia in the coming days.
Moscow and Ankara have backed different sides in the conflict.
Sami Hamdi, editor-in-chief of the United Kingdom-based International Interest magazine, said Moscow viewed its role in Libya as a means to increase its influence in the region.
“Libya, for Russia, is simply a pressure point to use against the Turks to get some concessions, whether that’s in Syria, or any other point of conflict, and to pressure the United States in terms of trying to exert itself,” he said.
“Russia is exerting itself as the new superpower, we have seen that in Syria, it saved [President] Bashar al-Assad, and it is now starting to court the Middle East states.”
The GNA said earlier this month that it had documented between 600 and 800 Russian mercenaries involved in fighting in Libya. Moscow, however, has denied that private military contractors are supporting Haftar.