Turkish parliament passes Libya deployment bill, but troops unlikely for now

?Turkey’s Parliament has overwhelmingly approved a Bill that allows troops to be deployed in Libya, in a move that paves the way for further military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli but is unlikely to put boots on the ground immediately.

President Tayyip Erdogan said last week Turkey would deploy troops in Libya to support Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The GNA last month requested Turkish support as it fends off an offensive by General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which are backed by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan.

Fighting and air strikes continue around Tripoli, where the UN refugee agency said three mortars had fallen on Thursday close to an overcrowded transit centre housing around 1,000 migrants in the centre of the city.

Separate agreements

Turkey’s move comes after Ankara and the GNA signed two separate agreements in November: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, infuriating Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

Almost immediately after the vote, Egypt strongly condemned the parliament’s decision, and called on the international community to urgently respond to the move.

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The Bill, opposed by all major opposition parties, passed with a 315-184 vote. Opposition parties said the move may exacerbate conflicts in Libya and endanger Turkish soldiers in the region and Turkey’s national security.

But Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the Bill was an important step for protecting Ankara’s interests in North Africa and the Mediterranean, and for achieving peace and stability in Libya.

The GNA’s interior minister Fathi Bashagha said Tripoli had requested Turkish support following a “dangerous escalation” in the conflict by Haftar’s forces.

“As Libya’s only legitimate and sovereign government, the GNA is the singular entity with the right to formalise military alliances necessary to safeguard our nation,” Bashagha said. Dmitry Novikov, a Russian lawmaker, said after the vote that a Turkish military presence in Libya would “only deteriorate the situation”, according to the Interfax news agency.

Later on Thursday, Erdogan discussed Libya with US President Donald Trump in a phone call, the Turkish presidency said without providing more details.

Erdogan is due to discuss Libya with Russian President Vladimir Putin later this month.

Ankara has already sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations arms embargo, according to a UN report.

But analysts and some officials say Ankara is unlikely to immediately deploy troops, sending military advisers and equipment first.

“The hope would be that the Turkish military may not itself be involved in military action,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat who is chairman of the think-tank Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies.  

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Libya Deployment BillPresident Tayyip ErdoganGovernment of National AccordGNA