Turkey will shortly send an official delegation to Moscow to hold extensive discussions about Libya amid rising tensions in the eastern Mediterenean, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Wednesday.
Erdogan said deputy foreign and defence ministers, along with senior officials from intelligence and national security, would join the meetings. The president didn’t specify any dates but a senior Turkish official told MEE that they intend to make the visit next week.
“They will make a comprehensive review of the regional issues with their Russian counterparts,” Erdogan told journalists accompanying him on his visit to Geneva.
“We asked Putin to make this meeting constructive and something that could quickly bear results, and he agreed. We agreed that they will also talk about Syria.”
Though Ankara and Moscow have several issues to be thrashed out, the most pressing is Libya, where Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has been staging an offensive on Tripoli, with the support of Egypt, the UAE and Russian Wagner Group mercenaries.
Turkey, meanwhile, supports the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, and the two allies signed a security deal earlier this month.
Erdogan repeated his promise on Wednesday that Turkey was ready to deploy forces in Tripoli if the UN-recognised GNA requests it.
The Turkish parliament is scheduled to vote on the deal later this week and the majority of the MPs are expected to back it.
A senior Turkish diplomat told a group of journalists on Tuesday that the deal was only allowing civilian and military deployment on the basis of technical and military support, not for combatant forces. Turkish drone operators are already reportedly working in the war-torn North African country.
Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited Turkey to join January’s Berlin Conference, a diplomatic process aimed at ending the five-year-long civil war in Libya.
“We believe Qatar, Tunisia and Algeria must be part of this process. Putin agrees with me,” Erdogan said.
“After these deals with Libya, I expect our steps will accelerate in Libya, because we cannot take this slow anymore. The war is going on. You have the Russia Wagner Group, Egypt and Abu Dhabi supporting Haftar’s forces, which aren’t recognised by anyone.”
Turkey acknowledged earlier this year that it had been selling weapons to GNA, despite an international arms embargo. Turkish armed drones and armoured vehicles have been spotted in the country over the past six months.
Cumhuriyet, a Turkish opposition newspaper, also reported on Wednesday that Turkey had been treating the Libyan fighters from GNA for the last six months in its hospitals, possibly free of charge.
The report, citing a Libyan consulate official, alleged that there were currently 600 Libyan citizens who were receiving medical treatment in Turkish health centres, some of them in private hospitals owned by individuals close to Erdogan’s government.