Turkey’s defense minister said that any attack by eastern Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar on its personnel in the North African country would be met with force.
“A war criminal, murderer Haftar and his supporters must know that they will be seen as a legitimate target in case of any attack on Turkish forces” by his troops, Hulusi Akar said in an address to Turkish units in Tripoli late on Saturday and made available to media on Sunday.
His comments come days after Haftar said his forces would “prepare to drive out the occupier by faith, will and weapons,” referring to Turkish troops operating in support of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA).
“If they take such a step, they will be unable to find any place to flee to,” Akar said, referring to Haftar’s forces. “Everyone should come to their senses.”
Turkish support for the GNA earlier this year helped repel a 14-month offensive against the capital by Haftar, who is backed by Russia, Egypt and United Arab Emirates.
The two sides struck a cease-fire agreement in October, setting the stage for elections at the end of next year.
Akar on Saturday made an unscheduled visit to Tripoli where he discussed, according to Libyan officials, military cooperation between Ankara and the GNA.
Turkey’s defense minister said political talks based on the cease-fire sought to find a solution.
“What matters here is that everyone should contribute to a political solution. Any action other than that would be wrong,” he added.
Haftar had said there would be “no peace in the presence of a colonizer on our land” during his speech on Thursday.
Voice of America – English