Turkey has refused French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for the foreign powers to remove their forces from Libya, describing it as a “wrong” solution ahead of the Libyan presidential and parliamentary elections.
Macron told an international conference on Libya in Paris on Friday that “Russia and Turkey must withdraw their mercenaries without delay.”
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser rebuffed Macron’s call, saying Turkey’s continued military presence in Libya will help support political stability and security in the country. “If you single out the pulling out of foreign forces... from Libya, as the most important, as the top issue, we believe that is wrong,” Ibrahim Kalin said in an exclusive interview. “Our military presence there is to help the Libyan army train.”
“We are there as a force of stability and help to the Libyan people. And our priority as far as security is concerned is to help the Libyans establish their united Libyan National Army.” Kalin further said, “Libya needs support for its political process, the elections, economic issues.”
Libya’s elections were planned to be held on December 24, but the parliament split the polls in early October and postponed legislative elections until January. The Paris conference was aimed at ensuring that the elections would be held as planned.
Libya has been beset by chaos since the overthrow and killing of its long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi following a NATO operation in 2011. The conflict has escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers pouring weapons and mercenaries into the country. According to United Nations Security Council diplomats, there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya.
Ankara deployed troops to Libya to support the former internationally-recognized government, which had sought Turkey’s support against armed rebels.