JEDDAH, 17 February 2021 – Turkey says its troop will remain in Libya in keeping with the 2019 Ankara-Tripoli bilateral military agreement.
The Turkish position was confirmed by Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin, speaking to the state-run Turkish Radio Television.
It is believed that thousands of Turkish-affiliated troops are currently deployed in Libya.
Turkey claims that its troops are providing military training to units loyal to Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, and continues to reject calls for their withdrawal.
Turkey recently said it had completed the training of about 1,300 Libyan soldiers.
The Libyan ceasefire agreement signed last October 23 in Switzerland called for the withdrawal within three months of all foreign forces and mercenaries.
The deadline expired last January 23 with practically no foreign forces withdrawing.
Last Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would withdraw its troops “only if other countries withdraw their troops first”.
The position is in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution.
In late January, the United States called for an immediate withdrawal of Turkish and Russian troops from Libya.
However, just a month earlier, the Turkish parliament passed a motion authorizing an 18-month extension of Turkish troop deployment in Libya.
Last Friday, the French government reiterated calls for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign troops from Libya.
France demands an end to political interference in Libya, French Minister for Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Paris.
Last Sunday, one rights group accused Turkey of planning to deploy more mercenaries to the north African country amid international calls for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said Turkey is preparing to send new Syrian mercenaries into Libya.
The withdrawal of foreign fighters was recommended to mitigate risks of undermining the work of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya to end fighting between the country’s warring factions.
The Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis has said Turkey’s role in Libya has given it leverage over the outcome of the conflict and a potential political settlement.
“Turkey violated an arms embargo by shipping drones and weapons to Libya. The question now is whether Turkey’s involvement will cement a political solution or continue to frustrate it,” the executive director of Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis Seth J. Frantzman, told Arab News.
“Ankara’s overall goal in the Middle East and North Africa is to partition countries into spheres of influence and then export weapons and mercenaries, while dividing the spoils with Russia and largely ignoring local people,” Frantzman added.