Officials of the European Union (EU) on Tuesday condemned Turkey’s plans to send military and technical personnel to Libya, saying that foreign interference was exacerbating instability in the country.
A joint statement released after a meeting of the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy and the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, said: “Continuing outside interference is fuelling the crisis [in Libya].”
Addressing the reporters, the EU’s top diplomat Borrell said they were rejecting Turkey’s decision to intervene with troops in Libya.
The EU authorities’ meeting took place in Brussels after their scheduled official trip to Libya was postponed over safety concerns. They have called for a ceasefire as Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) has been struggling to fend off a military offensive by the rival Khalifa Haftar’s forces in the capital.
“The more the Libyan warring parties rely on foreign military assistance, the more they give external actors undue influence on sovereign Libyan decisions,” the EU’s Borrell said.
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a live televised interview that Ankara had started deploying troops to Libya.
The next day, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed Erdogan’s comments, saying they would send military experts and technical teams to support the Tripoli-based GNA led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
An EU diplomatic mission to Libya had been scheduled to train the Libyan officials and build up institutions in support of the GNA, However, it was later postponed due to the current dangerous situation in Libya, the EU diplomats said.
Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, who will meet with his Turkish counterpart on Wednesday, told reporters before traveling to Turkey that there was a proxy war underway in Libya.
“All interferences have to stop. There are countries that interfere with a civil war, turning it into a proxy war,” said Di Maio.
French, Greek, Cypriot, and Egyptian foreign ministers, along with Di Maio, will meet to discuss their next steps in Cairo on Wednesday when Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are to inaugurate TurkStream natural gas pipeline running between the two countries via the Black Sea.
The two seemingly allied countries support different warring parties in Libya, with Turkey backing the GNA and Russia supporting Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Although the United Nations (U.N.) warned the international community about not delivering external support to the fighting parties in fear of deepening the ongoing clashes, Erdogan’s Turkey is determined to take a bigger role in the conflict there.
Last week, Turkey’s parliament passed a motion allowing the deployment of troops in Libya for one year in support of the GNA.
The LNA is currently making a renewed attempt to take Tripoli. On Saturday, a military academy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was attacked, leaving 30 dead and another 33 wounded.
The GNA blamed the attack on Haftar’s LNA which denied any involvement.
Libya has been in turmoil since the country’s long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s fell following a 2011 Nato-backed uprising.