Erdogan visits Tunisia amid Ankara’s moves to deploy troops in Libya

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday paid a visit to Tunisia believed to be related to moves by Ankara to deploy troops in Libya.

The Turkish parliament ratified a security and military cooperation agreement struck last month with Libya’s United Nations (UN)-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

“I believe that Tunisia will have valuable and constructive contributions to the efforts to ensure stability in Libya. We have never been intruders anywhere. If there is an invitation, of course, we will consider it,” Erdogan said a joint press conference with his Tunisian counterpart Kais Saied.

This was an unscheduled visit, the first by a head of state since the Tunisian presidential elections in the autumn.

Erdogan was accompanied by Turkey’s foreign minister, defense minister and intelligence chief.

The two leaders reportedly discussed possible steps to secure a ceasefire in Libya, which borders Tunisia.

Following the surprise talks, the Turkish president repeated his remarks on Turkey’s readiness to deploy troops in the North African country in case of a request by the GNA.

“There might be a need for authorization in line with the developments over there. The parliament is conducting work on this issue. We will continue to support the internationally recognized Libyan government,” Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said a day before Erdogan’s visit.

Speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, Kalin added that Turkey’s support might be in terms of “military training, or other areas, such as political support” to Tripoli-based GNA, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Erdogan and al-Sarraj signed two controversial deals in November, one was on the security agreement, and the other was on the two countries’ maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara and Tripoli later ratified the two conduct agreements.

The North African nation was plunged into chaos in 2011 when its former leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in a NATO-backed uprising.

Since 2014, the country has been split between al-Sarraj’s GNA, which rules the western part and general-turned-warlord Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls the oil-rich eastern side of the country.

Last week, following the Turkish remarks on troop deployment in Libya, the Russian administration, announced that they were very concerned about the move.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to discuss the issue with Erdogan during talks in Ankara next month.

A Turkish delegation was reported to travel to Moscow on Monday to discuss developments in Libya and Syria.

The same as the case in Syria, Ankara backs one party to the conflict in Libya while Moscow, which is seemingly Turkey’s ally, supports the other side.

The GNA has not yet asked for any deployment of Turkish troops.

However, Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey would, if necessary, increase its military support to Libya, with the ground, air, and marine options being included.

Turkish parliament ratifies security and military deal with Libya

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