Turkey to increase military support to Libya if necessary: President Erdogan

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will increase its military support to Libya’s internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) if necessary and will evaluate military options there.

Speaking in the northern Turkish province of Kocaeli, Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkey had recently provided “very serious” support to the GNA, adding Libya was a country Turkey would support “with its life”.

“If necessary, we will increase the military aspect of our support to Libya, and evaluate all our options, from the ground, air and sea,” the Turkish president said.

Turkey backs Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s Government in Libya and has already sent military supplies to the GNA. Ankara has also said it could deploy troops to Libya if the GNA were to make such a request.

The GNA has been fighting a months-long offensive against General Khalifa Haftar’s forces who are based in the east of the country. Haftar’s forces have received support from Russia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

“They are supporting an illegal warlord, who is the pawn of certain nations, instead of the U.N.-recognized government,” Erdogan said, in an apparent reference to Haftar and the countries that support him.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when a popular uprising and NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his execution by unruly fighters.

Sarraj’s government has been attempting to establish order ever since.

Speaking before Erdogan, Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, said Turkey will stand by Libya’s government until peace, stability and security are established in the North African country.

Last month, Turkey and the GNA signed an accord to boost military cooperation and a separate deal on maritime boundaries that could prove crucial in the scramble for recently discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

The maritime deal has angered Greece, which slammed it as an “infringement on its sovereignty” that could complicate Athens’ decades-old disputes with Ankara over Cyprus and maritime rights in the Aegean Sea. Greece has already expelled the Libyan ambassador to Athens over the deal.

Elsewhere in his remarks on Sunday, Erdogan said Turkey will “absolutely” not turn back from its agreements with Libya.

“Nobody should come to us with attempts to exclude us, trap us in our own shores or steal our economic interests,” Erdogan said.

“We have no intention of starting conflicts with anyone for no reason, or robbing anyone of their rights,” he said, adding, “Those who oppose us have no sense of rights, law, justice, ethics or mercy.”

In an interview with the Greek daily, To Vima, on Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said the accord with Libya was in line with international law, adding Ankara may consider granting exploration licenses in areas determined by Turkey and Libya.

“It would be the exercise of our sovereign rights in our continental shelf in the region,” Cavusoglu was cited as saying

“The exercise of our sovereign rights also, and naturally, includes our right to deploy research vessels in the area,” the top Turkish diplomat said.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a coup sponsored by the Greek military junta.

Ankara does not recognize the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the European Union, and says The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has the right to explore around the entire island.

Turkey already has two drilling vessels in the eastern Mediterranean despite the threat of European Union sanctions.

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