President Donald Trump warned his Turkish counterpart against sending troops to fight in Libya hours after the Turkish parliament voted to authorize such a move.
Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed several “bilateral and regional issues,” according to a readout of the call released by the White House, as well as simmering tensions and ongoing instability in Libya that have been condemned by the top United Nations official there.
In Libya, where a rival regime in the nation’s east has mounted a coup attempt to oust the Tripoli-based government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, Trump “pointed out that foreign interference is complicating the situation in Libya,” according to the White House.
The offensive has split the international community: The rival regime led by commander General Khalifa Hifter has been backed the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, according to The Associated Press, while Sarraj’s government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
Erdogan and Sarraj recently signed a deal allowing Ankara to send military experts and personnel to the volatile region, the AP reported, and some in Turkey have argued that threats to the Libyan government could “spread instability to Turkey.”
Even Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte expressed his displeasure at the Turkish decision. Conte had earlier warned that Russia and Turkey, and not Europe, are setting the agenda in their involvement in Libya’s conflict.
In his end of year news conference Conte said Russia and Turkey were only pursuing a military and not a political solution in the North African state.
“We must be united, we cannot allow actors even much more distant from Libya, to position themselves, settle their role in the Libyan scenario and claim the primacy for any solutions,” he said. “Solutions which, moreover, are only military,” he added.
Turkey’s bill allowing troop deployment in Libya marks a dangerous escalation in the North African country’s civil war and severely threatens stability in the region, a joint statement by Greece, Israel and Cyprus said late on Thursday.
“This decision constitutes a gross violation of the UNSC resolution…imposing an arms embargo in Libya and seriously undermines the international community’s efforts to find a peaceful, political solution to the Libyan conflict,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said in the statement.
The three countries also called on Turkey to refrain from sending troops to Libya, which would violate Libyan national sovereignty and independence.