Turkey says ready to send troops to back Libya unity government

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), in Istanbul. Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. (AP)
Updated 11 December 2019

Turkey says ready to send troops to back Libya unity government

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he was ready to send troops to Libya if requested by the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.
"On the issue of sending soldiers... If Libya makes such a request from us, we can send our personnel there, especially after striking the military security agreement," he said in a televised appearance.
Turkey signed a military agreement last month with Libya's Government of National Accord, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
It came after media reports that Russia had sent 200 mercenaries to support Libya's military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is seeking to unseat the Tripoli-based government.
Russia has denied the reports, but Erdogan said: "There is a security company from Russia (in Libya) called Wagner. This company sent its security staff there."
The Wagner Group is a shadowy private security firm and thousands of its security contractors are believed to be in foreign conflicts from Syria to Ukraine to the Central African Republic.
At the same time as the military deal, Turkey also signed a controversial maritime jurisdiction agreement with Sarraj, giving sweeping rights for Turkey to explore for oil in the Mediterranean.
"With the new line drawn (by the maritime agreement), we will take steps to protect the interests of Libya, Turkey and the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus). This is in line with international law," he said.
The deal has been staunchly opposed by Greece, Cyprus and their European partners which says it violates the islands' maritime rights.


Pompeo begins Greece talks to calm eastern Mediterranean tensions

Updated 44 min 17 sec ago

Pompeo begins Greece talks to calm eastern Mediterranean tensions

  • Pompeo began his two-day visit by meeting Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Thessaloniki

ATHENS: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began talks on Monday in Greece to de-escalate tension in the eastern Mediterranean and boost tentative steps at dialogue between Athens and Ankara.
Pompeo began his two-day visit by meeting Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in Thessaloniki. Neither side has released a statement.
“Thrilled to be back in Greece, a vital US partner with whom we share a common strategic vision,” the secretary of state tweeted on Monday.
“The strength of our bilateral relationship is at an all-time high, and I’m looking forward to a productive visit.”
Ahead of the trip, a senior US official said Washington was keen to tamp down the tension, reduce the likelihood of “accidents or incidents” and for Greece and Turkey to complete an agreement.
The two NATO members are at loggerheads over energy exploration in disputed waters after Ankara stepped up hydrocarbon research in the sea.
The row has roped in other European powers, raising concern about a wider escalation.
But last week Athens and Ankara said they were ready to start talks.
“Let’s meet, let’s talk and let’s seek a mutually acceptable solution. Let’s give diplomacy a chance,” Mitsotakis said on Friday to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an address to the virtual UN General Assembly.
Pompeo will fly to the Greek island of Crete on Tuesday and tour the NATO naval base of Souda Bay.
Mitsotakis – who is hosting Pompeo at his family home on Crete – wants closer military ties with the US.
The secretary of state signed defense agreement last October allowing US forces a broader use of Greek military facilities.
A key element of the October deal was the northern Greek port of Alexandroupolis, a Balkans and Black Sea gateway of strategic value to the US navy and NATO.
The US has been granted priority status to the port after paying roughly $2.3 million to remove a sunken dredging barge that had blocked part of the harbor since 2010.
At the time, Greek officials said the Pentagon was expected to invest over $14 million on the Greek air base of Larissa and around six million euros at Marathi, part of the Souda base.
The visit to Thessaloniki is also intended as a sign to the Balkans on American willingness to invest in the region, the State Department said.
Pompeo will sign a bilateral science and technology agreement, and host an energy sector gathering of business leaders.
Pompeo’s tour later in the week also includes stops in Italy, the Vatican and Croatia.
In Rome, the secretary of state will discuss efforts by the Trump administration to deter its European allies from using equipment by Chinese manufacturer Huawei in developing their 5G networks.
The US accuses Huawei of being a tool for Chinese espionage.
Pompeo is also scheduled to attend a meeting at the Vatican on religious freedom, his human rights priority. There, too, he will warn of China’s actions against minorities, including Muslims.