ANKARA－Turkey will increase its military support to Fayez al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya if necessary and it will evaluate ground, air and marine options, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, after the two sides signed a military cooperation accord last month.
Turkey backs the GNA, which has been torn by factional conflict since 2011, and has already sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations arms embargo, according to a report by UN experts seen by Reuters last month.
Turkey has also said it could deploy troops to Libya if the GNA makes such a request. Serraj’s government has been fighting a months-long offensive by Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army in the eastern region of the country.
Haftar’s forces have received support from Russia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.
“If necessary, we will increase the military aspect of our support to Libya, and evaluate all our options, from the ground, air and sea,” Erdogan said at an event in the northern Turkish province of Kocaeli.
Speaking earlier, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey will stand by Libya’s government until peace, stability and security are established in the country.
Last month, Turkey and the GNA signed an agreement to boost military cooperation and a separate deal on maritime boundaries, which has enraged Greece and other countries.
Ankara and Athens have been at odds over hydrocarbon resources off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
While Greece has said the accord violates international law, Turkey has rejected those accusations, saying it aims to protect its rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
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.
“Those who oppose us have no sense of rights, law, justice, ethics or mercy,” said Erdogan, referring to Greece, Israel and Egypt, which have opposed the maritime accord.
In a first reaction from the United States on the agreement, a senior US State Department official said the maritime accord was “unhelpful” and “provocative”.
Forces seize ship
Forces in Libya’s east say they have seized a ship with Turkish crew members amid tensions in the eastern Mediterranean over the contentious maritime border deal.
In a statement issued late on Saturday night, the Libyan National Army said a vessel flying a Grenada flag with several Turkish crew members had been forcibly taken into a Libyan port for inspection. However, it remained unclear if the move was indeed a seizure.
Haftar and his forces have been trying to capture Tripoli since April. The offensive threatens to plunge Libya into another bout of violence.
Under the maritime agreement signed between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government, Ankara gains access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea.