Commander threatens to target Turkish forces in Libya

CAIRO (AP) – A Libyan commander who launched an offensive last year to capture the capital of Tripoli from the rival UN-recognized government threatened on Thursday to use force against Turkish troops if Ankara does not stop interfering in the North African country. , struck by the war.

Khalifa Hifter’s comments came in response to the Turkish parliament’s decision to extend a law by 18 months that would allow Turkish troops to be sent to Libya. Turkish military assistance to the Tripoli-based government – including advisers, equipment and intelligence – helped to halt Hifter’s one-year offensive in the capital. Turkey has also been accused of sending thousands of Syrian mercenaries to Libya.

“There will be no security or peace while the boots of the Turkish military are desecrating our pristine soil,” said Hifter in comments from his eastern fortress, Benghazi, on the 69th anniversary of Libya’s independence day. “We will take arms to bring peace with our own hands and our free will.”

Libya plunged into chaos after the 2011 uprising that overthrew and killed dictator Moammar Gaddafi. Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and one in the west. The western government is known as the National Settlement Government and is officially recognized by the UN

Hifter was an ally of the eastern government, while Turkey supported the GNA.

The decision by Turkish lawmakers came on Tuesday, despite a UN-mediated ceasefire in Libya, declared in October. The ceasefire agreement provided for the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries in three months.

“The colonizing enemy has one of two options: to leave peacefully or to be expelled by force,” said Hifter, referring to Turkey.

The UN Support Mission in Libya used the same national occasion to urge Libyan rivals to observe the ceasefire and respect a political roadmap that calls for national elections to be held in December 2021.

“While the Mission calls on Libyans to consolidate their efforts and take courageous steps towards national reconciliation, and look to a bright future for all Libyans to live in peace and prosperity, it affirms its total commitment to help the Libyan people in building its unified state, ”said a UNSMIL statement released on Thursday.

Earlier this month, 75 Libyan politicians from opposing camps virtually met in a UN-initiated political forum and agreed to hold elections next year. However, they failed to break an impasse in the selection mechanism for the transitional government that would rule the country before the vote.

“A tenuous ceasefire continues in force in Libya between the allied forces of the Tripoli government and its rivals in the east,” said a comment published Thursday by The International Crisis Group. “However, there is reason to fear that the hiatus five months in the conflict can end abruptly. “

In recent weeks, both governments have exchanged accusations of violating the terms of the ceasefire agreement, continuing to mobilize their troops near the front lines and receiving military assistance from their respective regional supporters.

Throughout his campaign to try to conquer Tripoli, which collapsed in June, Hifter had the support of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia. A report by UN experts said Russia has been supporting Hifter’s forces with military equipment and private armed operations. In addition to Turkey, the Tripoli government has the support of Italy and Qatar.