Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has warned Turkey against military intervention in Libya, as a deal between Ankara and the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli continues to draw criticism.
Conte on Dec. 28 said that he spoke on the phone with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recently and that he had urged the Turkish President to refrain from ground military intervention in support of Fayez Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA), arguing that this would lead to many civilians casualties and that neither side was likely to win.
Last week, both Ankara and Tripoli-based GNA ratified the memorandum on military cooperation, signed by Erdoğan and Sarraj on Nov. 27. Among everything, the document provides for military support between the parties.
Ankara plans to deploy troops to Libya to support the GNA against eastern Libyan forces led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, should Sarraj’s government ask.
Erdoğan, who has vowed to prevent the fall of Sarraj’s government, could order the deployment of Turkish military in Libya in early January, after securing the approval of parliament.
No-fly zone to resolve conflict
The Italian leader on Dec. 28 said that Russia and Turkey were only pursuing a military and not a political solution in the North African state, adding that he also spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the issue.
“We must be united, we cannot allow actors even much more distant from Libya, to position themselves, settle their role in the Libyan scenario and claim the primacy for any solutions. Solutions which, moreover, are only military,” Euronews cited Conte as saying.
Like Turkey, Italy stands behind Sarraj, while Russia supports the forces of Haftar, who has been trying for months to take over Tripoli.
During his end-of-year press conference in Rome, Conte suggested a no-fly zone as an option for resolving the conflict.
“A no-fly zone too can be an instrument for achieving a goal: the immediate cessation of hostilities,” Conte said.
Turkey speeds up troop deployment
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, meanwhile, warned that the Libyan conflict risks sliding into chaos and becoming the next Syria, as he sought to speed up legislation to allow it to send troops to the North African country.
“If today Libya becomes like Syria, then the turn will come for the other countries in the region,” Çavuşoğlu said on Dec. 28 at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“We need to do whatever is needed to prevent Libya from being divided and slide into chaos, and that is what we are doing. It is the legitimate government there that we deal with,” he said, stressing the military and security deal signed with Libya is important.
FM to meet opposition leaders
Cavuşoğlu is set to meet with three opposition party leaders on Dec. 30 and the government is expected to discuss the motion within the coming week.
Separately, the GNA said on Dec. 29 that a video circulating online purportedly showing Syrian fighters deployed by Turkey in Libya were false. It claimed the recording, which shows a number of men in military fatigues beside a fence, was actually shot in the Syrian province of Idlib. Reuters could not independently verify the footage.