Libya urges Turkey to co-operate on withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries

Interim government seeks to maintain seven-month ceasefire

(R to L) Libya's Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu give a joint press conference in the capital Tripoli on May 3, 2021.  / AFP / Mahmud Turkia
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Libya's new interim government on Monday urged Turkey to "co-operate" over the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries, to help maintain preserve the sovereignty of the country.

Foreign Minister Najla Al Mangoush made the request alongside her Turkish peer Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was visiting Tripoli.

Libya's interim government was chosen in March, replacing rival administrations based in Tripoli and the country's east.

The government in Tripoli relied heavily on Turkish military backing and Syrian mercenaries provided by Ankara, to the condemnation of much of the international community.

They supported the Tripoli government against an offensive launched by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar to rid the capital of militant groups.

Field Marshal Haftar had the backing of the eastern administration and support of foreign powers including Egypt and Russia.

Both departing administrations gave their support to the new interim government, mandated to lead the country to elections in December amid a ceasefire agreed to in October.

Ms Al Mangoush stressed the "importance of Turkey's contribution to ending fighting and the stabilisation of the ceasefire throughout the country".

Mr Cavusoglu criticised those who "suggest … the Turkish presence in Libya is equivalent to that of illegitimate groups".

Co-operation between Turkey and Libya within the framework of a military accord signed in late 2019 "avoided Libya sinking into civil war", he claimed.

"Our support has opened the way to a ceasefire and the installation of a new unified political executive."

The establishment of the government has brought cautious hope that Libya can move beyond the chaos that has ruled since the overthrow of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

But the continued presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries, estimated by the UN at 20,000, is widely perceived as a threat to the transition.