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Europe will face terror threat if Libya government falls, warns Erdogan

Turkey is a key backer of Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord [Getty]

Date of publication: 18 January, 2020

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Extremist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group could gain a fresh foothold in Libya, the Turkish president said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned Europe it could face new threats from terrorist organisations if Libya's internationally recognised government in Tripoli were to fall.

His comments came ahead of a Libya peace summit to take place in Berlin on Sunday, where the United Nations and international backers of rival Libyan factions will meet in the hopes of hashing out a lasting truce.

Erdogan slammed the European Union in an op-ed published on Saturday, claiming its failure to adequately support the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) would be "a betrayal of its own core values, including democracy and human rights".

"Europe will encounter a fresh set of problems and threats if Libya's legitimate government were to fall," he wrote in the article published in Politico

Extremist organisations such as the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda will "find a fertile ground to get back on their feet" after military defeats in Syria and Iraq, Erdogan said.

The GNA led by Fayez al-Sarraj has been under attack since April from rogue general Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), based in the country's east. The fighting has killed more than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters.

"Indeed, some groups that largely share those terrorist organisations' ideology, including the Madkhali-Salafis, are fighting alongside Haftar," the Turkish president wrote. 

Read more: Haftar hightails it from Russia, leaving hopes for peace in his wake

Erdogan also warned Europe could face an increase in irregular migration from Libya, a key concern for much of the EU.

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Turkey has threatened a intervention in support of Sarraj's government and has already deployed military advisors to Tripoli. 

In a joint initiative, Ankara and Moscow brokered a ceasefire between the two sides but Haftar walked away from talks in Russia earlier this week aimed at producing a final agreement.

Erdogan has said he would "teach a lesson" to Haftar if he resumed fighting.

"To leave Libya at the mercy of a warlord would be a mistake of historic proportions," he said in Saturday's article, referring to Haftar.

Call to end foreign interference

The UN special envoy for Libya has called on international parties to quit interfering in the conflict.

"All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That's one of the objectives of this conference," Ghassan Salame told AFP.

"Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans," he said, noting that the place of international players should be to "help Libyans develop themselves". 

Salame added that Sunday's summit hopes to reinforce the fragile truce brokered in Moscow.

"Today we only have a truce. We want to transform it into a real ceasefire with monitoring, separation [of rival camps], repositioning of heavy weapons" outside urban zones, he said.

The summit also aims at the implementation of a UN arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2011.

A number of foreign states have been accused of violating the embargo, including Turkey. Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have also allegedly broken the embargo in support of Haftar, while Russia has been accused of dispatching mercenaries to fight with the strongman.

Erdogan, who will attend the Berlin talks, wrote that the Libyan civil war served as a "litmus test" for the EU to show whether its leaders would abdicate their responsibilities and watch the crisis uphold from the sidelines. 

"The upcoming peace conference in Berlin is a very significant step toward that goal. European leaders, however, ought to talk a little less and focus on taking concrete steps," he said.

Agencies contributed to this report

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