Turkish President Erdogan says they won’t be silent over mercenaries in Libya

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a past interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, April 25, 2017./REUTERS

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey will not stay silent over Russian-backed mercenaries supporting Khalifa Haftar in Libya, as Moscow voiced concerns over possible Turkish military deployment to Libya in support of Haftar’s enemies.

Turkey has backed Libya’s internationally recognized government led by Fayez al-Serraj and the two sides signed a security agreement last month which could deepen military cooperation between them.

Turkey has already sent military supplies to Libya in violation of a United Nations arms embargo, according a report by U.N. experts seen by Reuters last month. It said Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) asked Turkey for help after Haftar received support from Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey had not responded directly to the assertions in the report, but Erdogan said Ankara could not ignore the support that Haftar was receiving from the Kremlin-linked Wagner group.

“Through the group named Wagner, they are literally working as Haftar’s mercenaries in Libya. You know who is paying them,” Erdogan was quoted by broadcaster NTV as saying on a flight back from Malaysia.

“That is the case, and it would not be right for us to remain silent against all of this. We have done our best until now, and will continue to do so,” he added.

Erdogan’s comments come a day after Serraj’s government said it ratified last month’s security and military accord with Ankara, opening the way for greater Turkish support, as it fights a months-long offensive by Haftar’s forces.

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