Turkey confirms presence of allied Syria mercenaries in Libya
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed for the first time the presence of pro-Turkish Syrian militants in Libya.
“Turkey is there with a training force. There are also people from the Syrian National Army,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Friday, referring to a group of anti-Damascus militants previously known as the so-called Free Syrian Army.
Libya’s internationally recognized government, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has previously sought Turkey’s support against rebels under the command of Khalifa Haftar, who receive support from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Haftar’s rebels have been fighting to seize the Libyan capital.
Since 2014, Libya has been divided between the Tripoli-based government and a camp in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar’s rebels.
Peace talks to end the fighting in Libya have failed. A shaky ceasefire has been agreed but has been routinely violated.
Earlier on Friday, Haftar said he would be ready for a ceasefire on the condition that Turkish forces leave Libya and Ankara stops providing the government with weapons. He called for “the withdrawal of Syrian and Turkish mercenaries, an end to Turkish arms supplies to Tripoli, and the liquidation of terrorist groups” in the capital.
The Turkish president hit out at Haftar and repeated allegations that Russia had dispatched 2,500 mercenaries from the Wagner, a private security company. Moscow denies the allegation.
Erdogan said Haftar was backed by “nearly 15,000 terrorists.” He also referred to mercenaries from Sudan, although a United Nations (UN) panel last month refuted the presence of Sudanese paramilitaries, saying there was no “credible evidence” on the issue.