Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a surprise visit to Tunis on Wednesday, where he spoke with his Tunisian counterpart about the conflict in Libya and regional tensions over increased cooperation between Ankara and the Libyan union government.
Erdogan, who first met President Kais Saied, who took office on October 23, said at a press conference that he discussed cooperation with Tunisia to help settle the Libyan conflict.
« We have discussed ways to cooperate to achieve a cease-fire in Libya as part of the revival of the political process, » said the Turkish president, whose country militarily supports the unity government (GNA), recognized by the UN.
« The impact of negative developments in Libya is not limited to this country but also affects neighboring countries, including Tunisia, » added Erdogan.
Tunisia shares a long border with this country plunged into chaos and has welcomed thousands of Libyans since the revolt that led to the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Libya is torn between two rival powers: the GNA, based in Tripoli (west), and in the east a power embodied by General Khalifa Haftar, who launched an attack in early April to conquer the capital.
It is supported by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, countries with which Turkey has sometimes tense relations.
Erdogan also called on Tunisia, but also Qatar and Algeria to participate in the international conference on Libya to be organized by the UN in early 2020 in Berlin.
For his part, Kais Saied stressed “the increased complexity” of the Libyan crisis, and spoke of “President Erdogan’s support for a Tunisian initiative on Libya.
Announced by Saied on Monday in a statement, the initiative calls on « all Libyans to sit at the negotiating table to reach a solution to the crisis.
Military support “if necessary”
Turkey was criticized for signing a military deal with the GNA last month, as well as a maritime deal, also in November. This latest agreement aims to extend the maritime borders of Turkey and was notably denounced by Greece.
On Libya, commenting on reports of the presence of Sudanese and Russian mercenaries alongside pro-Haftar forces, Erdogan said: “I wonder what they are doing in Libya and in what capacity these 5,000 Sudanese and these 2,000 others from the Russian company Wagner are there. What do they have to do there and what are their connections? ”
« If Turkey is invited (to send troops to Libya), we will accept the invitation because at least we have an agreement » with the GNA, warned Erdogan.
The Turkish president had already said on Sunday that his country would increase its military support to Tripoli if necessary, and in all its forms.
« We will assess all types of military support, including ground, sea and air if necessary, » said the Turkish leader.