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Turkey ready to retaliate after 'hostile' Haftar threatens attack

Renegade general Khalifa Haftar has called for attacks on Turkish forces in Libya [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 June, 2019

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Turkey's defence minister said Istanbul will retaliate against any assault from Libyan renegade general Khalifa Haftar, who has called for attacks on Turkish forces in Libya.
Ankara will retaliate against any assault from Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar's forces after he ordered them to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country, Turkey's defence minister told state media.

"There will be a very heavy price for hostile attitudes or attacks, we will retaliate in the most effective and strong way," Hulusi Akar told Turkish state news agency Anadolu during his visit with the president to Osaka, Japan for the G20 summit.

He said Turkey's efforts in Libya sought to "contribute to peace and stability in the region".

"It should be known that we have taken all kinds of measures to deal with any threat or antagonistic action against Turkey," Akar added.

Libyan militia leader Haftar ordered his fighters to attack Turkish ships and interests in the country on Friday.

"Orders have been given to the air force to target Turkish ships and boats in Libyan territorial waters," said General Ahmad al-Mesmari, claiming that Ankara is backing Haftar's rivals.

"Turkish strategic sites, companies and projects belonging to the Turkish state (in Libya) are considered legitimate targets by the armed forces."

Haftar's militia, named as the Libyan National Army, holds eastern Libya and much of the country's south.

His forces launched an offensive to take the capital in early April, but have since lost ground.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed his country backs the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and provides weapons to it under a "military cooperation agreement".

In-depth: Haftar's offensive is not the final chapter in the Libyan conflict

He told reporters on June 20 that Turkish backing had allowed Tripoli to "rebalance" the fight against Haftar, who has the backing of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

When asked about the threat on Saturday, Erdogan said he was not aware of it, but Turkey would take necessary measures after evaluating the situation.

Libya's UN-backed GNA on Thursday recaptured the strategic town of Gharyan, near Tripoli, a government spokesman said. 

The GNA has been battling rival forces under the control of rogue General Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive to take the capital three months ago.

Gharyan, located some 100km from Tripoli, has been a vital base for Haftar's forces, serving as a key supply route and headquarters. 

The GNA spokesperson, Mohammed Gnono, told The New Arab's Arabic-language service that all of the town had been secured, adding that the chances of Haftar's side taking back control of Gharyan were highly unlikely.

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