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Turkey’s Erdogan Hints at Sending Troops to Libya

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is inching towards deploying troops to Libya in support of the internationally recognized government, saying that a recent maritime demarcation agreement between the countries was a “harbinger of steps” to come. Erdogan this week made an unannounced visit to Tunisia, where he was expected to meet with representatives of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord. The GNA, supported by rebel groups, has been fighting a months-long battle in and around Tripoli against the Libyan National Army, which is headed by strongman Khalifa Haftar. The former general in Moammar Qaddafi’s army launched a campaign to retake the Libyan capital in April, a move condemned by the United Nations, which backs al-Sarraj and has unsuccessfully attempted to broker a peace deal between the warring sides. Last week, Erdogan and al-Sarraj signed a controversial accord granting Turkey rights to large resource-rich swaths of the Mediterranean Sea, parts of which are claimed by European Union members Greece and Cyprus. The move prompted Brussels to threaten Ankara with economic sanctions. Turkey’s military intervention in Libya would undoubtedly further destabilize a nation that was thrust into chaos following the 2011 NATO-led ouster of Qaddafi. It could also pit Ankara against Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to other countries that back Haftar. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is expected in early January to introduce a bill in parliament that, if approved, would green light the deployment of soldiers to Libya.