ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Turkey could deploy troops in Libya, if the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli were to request such support.
Erdogan’s comment came weeks after Turkey signed security and military cooperation agreements, as well as a controversial maritime border agreement, with Libya’s Tripoli-based government. That government, led by Fayez Sarraj, controls parts of the country’s west.
“If Libya were to make a request, we would send a sufficient number of troops,” Erdogan said during a town hall meeting with university students. “After the signing of the security agreement, there is no hurdle.”
However, the deals with Turkey outraged members of the Libyan parliament, which is based in the east and aligned with the self-styled Libyan National Army, led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.
During Tuesday’s meeting with students, the Turkish leader said Hifter had no “international identity.”
“Sarraj is the one who is recognized, and he is the one we considered as our interlocutor,” Erdogan said.
Libyan lawmakers have criticized the agreements as a “flagrant breach” of Libya’s security and sovereignty. They say the deals grant the Turkish government the right to use Libyan airspace and waters, as well as the right to build military bases on Libyan soil.
The maritime border agreement could give Turkey access to a contested economic zone across the eastern Mediterranean Sea, fueling tensions in Turkey’s dispute with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt over oil and gas drilling rights in the area.