Turkey began sending troops to Libya in January to shore up the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). Before that, Ankara provided the GNA with military equipment to assist Tripoli in its ongoing campaign against the Tobruk-based government and the Libyan National Army (LNA) of Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy has warned that there would be serious consequences for Gen. Haftar’s forces if the Libyan National Army attacked Turkish troops operating in Libya.
«We emphasize once again that in the case of striking our interest in Libya – doing so would lead to serious consequences, and we will consider Haftar’s forces a legitimate target for attack,” Aksoy said, speaking to reporters on Thursday.
Aksoy’s comments came in the wake of remarks by Libyan National Army Air Force commander Saqr al-Jaroushi earlier in the day warning that “the largest aerial campaign in Libyan history” would be launched «in the coming hours» targeting Turkish forces.
“All Turkish targets in occupied areas of Libya are legitimate targets for the LNA’s fighter planes. We assure our people that we will defend them with all means available to us until we kill the enemy or perish on our own land,” al-Jaroushi was quoted as saying, adding that civilians are urged to stay away from these sites.
“This is the last time we are warning those deceived persons who have joined the ranks of the [GNA] militias: surrender or be annihilated, and there won’t even be anything left of their bodies to bury,” the officer warned.
Commenting on the remarks, Aksoy suggested it was “noteworthy that this statement was made after new military aircraft were deployed in eastern Libya through external support.”
Last week, Fathi Bashagha, minister of interior in the GNA government, alleged that at least eight jet fighters, including six MiG-29s and two Sukhoi Su-24s, were delivered to Libya from Syria. Damascus established diplomatic relations with the Tobruk-based government earlier this year, promising, among other things, to cooperate against a “common Turkish threat” to both countries. Syrian authorities have not commented on the fighter jet claims.