Turkey’s president has met with the head of Libya’s “recognized” government, following heightened tensions between Turkey and forces loyal to a rival Libyan authority.
In a statement from his office late Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his support for Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj’s forces.
Libya is split between two warring governments. Sarraj leads the weakened Tripoli government in the west, supported by an array of militias.
The Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar rules much of the rest of the country. His ongoing offensive to seize the capital has threatened to plunge Libya into another bout of violence on the scale of the conflict that ousted Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Erdogan called on Haftar’s forces to cease their attacks.
The military commander’s forces has said that Turkish vessels and interests would be considered targets, after accusing Turkey of helping militias allied with the Tripoli government. Six Turkish nationals were freed this week after Turkey threatened action.
The LNA also said it deployed more troops to join the Tripoli fighting.
On Friday, its media center posted footage it says shows “military battalions” that would be sent to the front for the first time. The footage showed dozens of armored vehicles moving in the desert under air cover.
The reinforcements came less than two weeks after Haftar’s forces were driven out of the strategic town of Gharyan, in a surprise attack by militiamen aligned with the Tripoli government.
The UN health agency said the death toll from the fighting around the capital had reached nearly 1000, including 53 who were killed in the airstrike on the Tajoura detention center for migrants.
The World Health Organization said the fighting has wounded over 5,000 others since Haftar launched his offensive on April 4.
Fighters aligned with the government in Tripoli received Turkish-made armored vehicles in May. The LNA said it destroyed Turkish-made drones during the fighting.
In a telephone call Saturday, Erdogan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Libyan crisis, among other topics. Haftar is backed by Russia, along with his Arab allies of the UAE and Egypt.
Haftar’s campaign against Islamic militants across Libya since 2014 won him growing support from world leaders concerned that Libya had become a haven for armed groups and a major conduit for migrants. But critics view him as an aspiring autocrat and fear a return to one-man rule.
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