Turkey to continue supporting Libya: Defense minister
Libya’s sovereignty and independence are significant for Turkey, and Ankara would continue to support the country in the future, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 3, noting that Turkish presence in Libya was of vital importance in terms of protecting rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Akar was addressing Turkish troops in the country during a visit of top Turkish officials to Tripoli, including the foreign minister and intelligence chief -- the first visit from Ankara after an interim government was formed in Libya to lead the country until elections.
“There were some problems when we came here. We made every effort we could to overcome these troubles on land, sea and air day and night. Important results have been achieved at the point we have reached. Here, our Libyan brothers and sisters continue to work shoulder to shoulder with Turkey for the armed forces to be structured and its organization to be modernized and organized,” he said.
Turkey’s Chief of Staff Yaşar Güler and Libya’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Muhammed El-Haddad, Western Regional Commander Major General Usame Cuveyli and Tripoli Regional Commander Major General Abdülbaki Mervan accompanied the minister during his address to the Turkish soldiers.
“Until 2020, there was nobody in Libya. We are foul-weather friends, not friends just on good days. In this sense, we have taken and continue to take all kinds of risks by remaining loyal to our common history and values,” Akar stated.
Akar emphasized that Turkey’s presence in Libya is of vital importance in terms of protecting rights and interests in the eastern Mediterranean.
“We continue our activities in the eastern Mediterranean within the maritime demarcation agreement with Libya. Greece’s attempts to override this agreement are futile. We are in favor of solving problems through international law, good neighborhood, dialogue and peaceful methods,” he added.
Turkey aims to continue supporting Libya, including the normalization of life as soon as possible, especially IED and mine clearance, training, assistance and consultancy activities, the minister said.
Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference with his Libyan counterpart in Tripoli, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Turkey valued Libya’s sovereignty and political unity.
Turkish forces were in Libya as part of an agreement reached with a previous Libyan administration, Çavuşoğlu said while responding to Najla al-Manqoush, foreign minister of Libya’s interim government, who called on “to take steps to implement all the provisions of ... the Security Council resolutions and to cooperate together to expel all foreign forces and mercenaries from the Libyan territories.”
“In the face of the attacks on Tripoli [in the past], the legitimate government of Libya invited some countries, including us. Only Turkey replied in the affirmative to this call,” Çavuşoğlu stated.
Turkey’s support for Libya under a November 2019 deal on security and military cooperation helped prevent a civil war and human tragedy, he noted.
The minister also had a meeting with Jan Kubis, the U.N. special envoy for Libya.
The Turkish delegation also had talks with Libyan Presidential Council President Muhammad al Manfi, Presidential Council Vice Presidents Abdullah al Lafi and Musa al Koni and Libya’s Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah.
The previous Tripoli-based administration relied heavily on Turkish military backing to repel a 2019-2020 offensive by eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar, who was in turn backed by the eastern administration and foreign powers ranging from Egypt to Russia.
In 2019, Ankara signed a maritime demarcation agreement with the previous Government of National Accord (GNA) in the eastern Mediterranean and a military cooperation accord under which Turkey sent military advisers and trainers to Tripoli.