The Turkish legislature has approved a proposal to send troops to Libya, amid concerns the conflict in the troubled African nation could escalate insecurity in the Sahel region, which includes Nigeria’s extreme north.
The approval on Thursday followed the declaration, last December, by President Recep Erdogan to intervene in the Libyan conflict in support of the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.
The development further internationalises the armed conflict in Libya, which has been torn by civil war since a NATO-led invasion led to the fall and killing of Muammar Gaddafi.
Already, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and UAE are backing the forces of Khalifa Haftar, a former late Gaddafi’s ally, who is pushing from the country’s east to out the GNA from Tripoli. No authority has had full control over Libya since the fall of Gaddafi.
Nigerian leader, Muhammadu Buhari, has repeatedly blamed the situation in Libya for the flow of arms bandits and terrorists used in Nigeria. Apart from Boko Haram terrorism, which affects the entire Lake Chad region, Nigeria also faces troubles posed by bandits and armed herdsmen whose arms Mr Buhari has often say come from Libya.
Meanwhile, before the official approval of Mr Erdogan’s bill to deploy troops to Libya, there had been reports that mercenaries trained in the Turkish camps in Syria were being airlifted to Libya to on the side of the Tripoli-based government on contract for a time spanning between three and six months.
Russian-backed mercenaries and those from Chad are also reported to be fighting for the Haftar’s forces, now threatening the internationally recognised government as they tighten grips on Tripoli.
But using mercenaries in Libya is particularly dangerous. The governments in the Sahel region are too weak to stop crossing mercenaries and illicit arms flow.
Mr Erdogan’s bill received 325 votes against 184 opposition votes in the Turkish parliament.
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Both the Turkish presidency and the White House said Mr Erdogan and Donald Trump discussed Libya via phone. Mr Trump and Mr Erdogan “stressed the importance of diplomacy in resolving regional issues,” Ankara said, with Washington separately saying the US president “warned against foreign interference” in Libya.
In a joint statement on Friday, Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades warned the deployment of troops to Libya is “a dangerous threat to regional stability”.
They said Turkish intervention was a “gross” violation of a UN-imposed arms embargo on Libya.
Egypt, which backs the Haftar forces, also said Turkish troops deployment would “negatively affect the stability of the Mediterranean region.”
BBC reported Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay as saying the approved bill would be valid for one year without further details about the scale of the planned military deployment.
“We are ready. Our armed forces and our defence ministry are ready,” Mr Oktay reportedly said.
In a tweet following the parliamentary approval, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said, “The Libyan motion is important for the protection of the interests of our country and for the peace and stability of the region.”
A spokesperson for Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kimiebi Ebienfa, said Abuja is “studying the situation in Libya and will align itself with the position of the AU when declared.”
“Nigeria will definitely oppose any escalation of the conflict in Libya,” he added.