Ankara warns to target Haftar's forces if attacked in Libya
Any attack on Turkish missions in Libya by Khalifa Haftar’s forces can expect a military response, the country’s ruling party spokesman warned the renegade warlord on May 12.
“We are clearly saying that, if our mission in Libya is attacked in any way, we will view Haftar’s forces as legitimate targets,” Ömer Çelik, spokesman for the Justice and Development Party (AKP), told reporters amid a party board meeting by video link.
On May 10, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said Haftar’s attacks targeting diplomatic missions, including the Turkish Embassy in the capital Tripoli, the Mitiga Airport, civilian airplanes preparing to take off, and other civilian infrastructure, constituted a war crime.
Haftar, the leader of illegal armed forces in eastern Libya, intensified attacks on civilians since the beginning of May as the Libyan army recently gained the advantage and inflicted severe losses on his militants.
Libya's government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence. It launched Operation Peace Storm on March 26 to counter attacks on the capital.
Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya's government was founded in 2015 under a U.N.-led political agreement.
Rescue of Italian aid worker
On Silvia Constanza Romano, an Italian aid worker kidnapped in Africa in 2018, Çelik said Turkish intelligence became involved in the issue at the request of foreign governments and played a key role in Sunday’s successful rescue operation.
He went on to say that relations between Turkey and Italy have always rested on a base of solidarity.
Romano was abducted in Chakama in southeastern Kenya in November 2018.
Commenting on efforts to ensure a cease-fire in Syria, he said achieving a permanent solution would lead to regional stability and give Syrians in Turkey the chance to return to their homes.
Following the 2011 start of Syria’s bloody civil war, Turkey followed an open-door policy for the country’s war-weary people. Today, Turkey stands as the world's top refugee-hosting country, with a Syrian refugee population of around 3.6 million.
If efforts to draw up a new constitution for Syria are to continue, said Çelik, ensuring a permanent cease-fire in the northwestern Idlib region, along Turkey’s southern border, would provide a valuable contribution.
This March, Turkey and Russia agreed on a protocol urging parties in Syria to “cease all military actions along the line of contact in the Idlib de-escalation area.”
Idlib has long been under siege by Assad regime forces and its allies, and previous cease-fires for the region were plagued by violations.
Turkey has worked to protect the local civilian population as well as rid the wider region of terrorist elements.