Greece, Israel and Cyprus call Turkey’s planned Libya deployment ‘dangerous escalation’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a symposium in Ankara, Turkey, January 2, 2020. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS

Turkey’s bill allowing troop deployment in Libya marks a dangerous escalation in the North African country’s civil war and severely threatens stability in the region, a joint statement by Greece, Israel and Cyprus said late on Thursday.

“This decision constitutes a gross violation of the UNSC resolution…imposing an arms embargo in Libya and seriously undermines the international community’s efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the Libyan conflict,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in the statement.

Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows troops to be deployed in Libya, in a move that paves the way for further military cooperation between Ankara and Tripoli but is unlikely to put boots on the ground immediately.

President Tayyip Erdogan said last week Turkey would deploy troops in Libya to support Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Turkey’s move comes after Ankara and the internationally recognised government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj signed two separate agreements in November: one on security and military cooperation and another on maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, infuriating Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.

The three countries also called on Turkey to refrain from sending troops to Libya, which would violate Libyan national sovereignty and independence.

The GNA last month requested Turkish support as it fends off an offensive by General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which are backed by Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan.

Fighting and air strikes continue around Tripoli, where the U.N. refugee agency said three mortars had fallen on Thursday close to an overcrowded transit centre housing around 1,000 migrants in the centre of the city.