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Turkey to send allied Syrian fighters to Libya

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Turkey is considering sending allied Syrian fighters to Libya as part of its planned military support for the Government of National Accord in Tripoli. 300 Syrian fighters are already in Libya according to some sources.

Last week, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his government would deploy troops to Libya after Fayez al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) requested support.

According to Reuters, four senior Turkish sources confirm that discussions are underway about the possibility of sending Turkey-backed Syrian fighters to Libya but say that it’s not done yet.

On its side, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a war monitor, said that 300 pro-Turkey Syrian fighters had been transferred to Libya and that more than 900 others were training in Turkish camps. SOHR claims that “Turkey offers salaries range between 2000 and 2500 USD for every single fighter over a three-months contract or a six-months contract, in return for heading to Tripoli.”

Moreover, citing Turkish and Libyan officials, Bloomberg said that “ethnic Turkmen rebel groups that have fought alongside Turkey in northern Syria are expected to reinforce the government in Tripoli imminently.”

Turkmen fighters of Sultan Murat Brigade seen advancing to Keklijah village some five kilometers west of northern Syrian town of Jarablus. (AA Photo)

This version is confirmed by the Middle East Eye which, citing a Turkish source, claims that “the Sultan Murad Division, an armed group made up of Syrian Turkmen fighters, is among the groups set to be sent to North Africa.”

It should be recalled that Turkey recently signed a maritime border deal with the Libyan Government of National Accord that officially “serves the energy interests of both countries”. As a result of this bilateral agreement, Turkey claims a huge part of the eastern Mediterranean – an area that includes large reservoirs of natural gas that are coveted by Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, and even Lebanon.

Turkey-Libya maritime borders

Turkish intervention in Libya, if confirmed, would turn the battle for power between local factions into a regional proxy war.

On the one hand, there are Turkey and Qatar which support Saraj’s Government of National Accord. On the other hand, there is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in addition to Egypt, which support Marshal Haftar. Russia, although suspicious of him, rather supports Marshal Haftar. The U.S. has sent ambiguous messages to Libyan rivals. Russian involvement in support of Haftar has prompted it to press more forcefully for a peace deal.

For the moment, the big unknown in the equation remains the positions of the immediate neighbors of Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia. What room for maneuver do these two countries have in the face of a conflict that is looming on their doorstep? Will they be involved on a diplomatic level or will they limit themselves to an exclusively security approach that consists of securing the long borders which separate them from Libya?

The coming weeks will certainly provide us with answers to these questions.

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