Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara has the right to deploy troops to Libya at Tripoli’s request.
Speaking on Monday following the signing of a controversial deal between the two countries on maritime boundaries along with an expanded security and military cooperation accord, Erdogan said that Turkey did not need to seek permission for such a decision.
“In the event of such a call coming, it is Turkey’s decision what kind of initiative it will take here. We will not seek the permission of anyone on this,” he said.
According to the deal, Turkey and Libya are to carry out joint natural gas drilling operations in the eastern Mediterranean where tension is high among the regional powers due to Ankara’s recent gas exploration off the coast of Cyprus – which has been split between its Greek and Turkish populations ever since ethnic tensions resulted in Turkey’s 1974 invasion.
Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt which lie between Turkey and Libya geographically denounced the agreement between Turkey and Libya naming it as a serious breach of international law, while the European Union foreign ministers agreed last month to hit Turkey with economic sanctions.
The Turkish government claims its moves in the Mediterranean aim to defend its rights in the region and they are in line with international law.
During an interview on Monday with state-run broadcaster TRT, Erdogan said the deal would allow Turkey to conduct drilling operations also on Libya’s continental shelf with Tripoli’s approval.
“Greek Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and Israel cannot establish a gas transmission line without first getting permission from Turkey,” said Erdogan.
He claimed, according to the deal, that international actors must ask Ankara to explore the maritime borders between Turkey and Libya, which is close to the large Greek island of Crete.
According to the military accord with Libya, Erdogan also proclaimed, that sending troops to the country does not violate a United Nations arms embargo on Libya.
A report by the UN, on the other hand, has revealed last month that Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey have regularly violated its arms embargo imposed on Libya since 2011.
Following a NATO-backed uprising ousted its leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has been split between the UN-backed government and Khalifa Haftar’s Tobruk-based government since 2014.