Turkish Parliament extends troop presence in Libya despite peace talks

Ankara's role in Libya is linked to its broader interests in the eastern Mediterranean region

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) addresses MPs at the fourth legislative session of the Turkish parliament's 27th term at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNAT) in Ankara on October 1, 2020. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Turkey's Parliament on Tuesday extended a law to deploy troops to Libya for another 18 months.

The bill renewed a one-year mandate that came into force in January following a security and military agreement with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in western Libya.

Tuesday's decision comes in the wake of a UN-brokered cease-fire in Libya that was declared in October, that calls for the departure of all foreign forces and mercenaries within three months.

Opposition parties voted against the extension, but the combined votes of Turkey’s ruling party and its nationalist allies allowed the bill to pass.

Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

The oil-rich North African nation is now split between the Tripoli government and its rival administration in the east. Both sides are backed by regional and foreign powers and local militias.

Ankara’s support for the GNA has turned the tide of war in Libya. Turkish military assistance – including advisers, equipment and intelligence – helped obstruct a year-long military attempt to capture Tripoli by forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, a Libyan commander who heads the Libyan National Army that is loyal to the eastern House of Representatives.

Turkey also sent thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Libya to fight for the militias that back the GNA.

Turkey also signed a controversial maritime agreement with the Tripoli government last year, giving it access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The deal added tensions to Turkey’s ongoing dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights.

In a possible setback for the UN efforts to end the crisis, Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov informed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that he will be unable to take up the role of Libya envoy next year, a spokesman for the global forum said on Tuesday.

Mr Mladenov, who is about to finish his stint as the UN's envoy for the Middle East peace process, had been lined up to succeed Ghassan Salame who stepped down in March because of health reasons.

Mr Mladenov told Mr Guterres that when his current role ends on December 31 he will resign from the UN, Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for Guterres, told reporters.

"Mr Mladenov told the Secretary General in a letter that he had taken this decision for personal and family reasons," Mr Dujarric said.

He said the UN was looking at potential candidates and acting envoy Stephanie Williams would remain in the role for now.

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