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Erdogan confirms the presence of pro-Turkish Syrian fighters in Libya

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed for the first time on Friday the presence of pro-Ankara Syrian fighters in Libya alongside Turkish training personnel.

“Turkey is there through a force conducting training (operations). There are also members of the ‘Syrian National Army’,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, referring to opposition fighters who were previously called “the Free Syrian Army”.

Turkey supports the UN-recognized government of national reconciliation, which is based in Tripoli, and sent dozens of military trainers to Libya after the two countries signed agreements last year.

The Al-Wefaq government has been under attack since April 2019, Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, the influential military commander in the east of the country, who has been receiving support from a number of countries, including Russia.

And last month, the warring parties agreed to a ceasefire. Despite violations, two rounds of talks were held in Geneva.

Haftar said on Friday that his conditions for a cease-fire are “the withdrawal of Turkish and Syrian mercenaries, Turkey’s suspension of arms supplies to Tripoli and the liquidation of terrorist groups.”

But Erdogan attacked Haftar and renewed accusations that Russia had sent 2,500 mercenaries to Libya from Libya from a private security company called Wagner, which Moscow denied.

The Turkish president said that there are “about 15,000 terrorists” who support Haftar, who is also supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Erdogan pointed to the presence of Sudanese fighters on the ground, although a UN committee said last month that there was “no credible evidence” of the presence of Sudanese paramilitary forces fighting with Haftar.

Erdogan met Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj on Thursday in Istanbul, but Turkish officials did not give details of the talks.

Libya has been in a state of anarchy since 2011, when an uprising backed by NATO killed Muammar Gaddafi, who held power for a long time.

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