Istanbul, 2 January 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Turkey’s parliament authorized military invention in Libya on Thursday by voting in favour of a one-year mandate to deploy troops in the midst of an escalating civil war.
The mandate passed by 325 votes in favour and 184 against.
It was expected to be approved easily because President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have a parliamentary majority.
An emergency session was called to discuss the motion, which will allow the government to decide on the timing and scope of any deployment and the number of armed forces to be sent.
Parliament has approved similar mandates in the past. On October 8, it renewed a motion to dispatch soldiers to Syria and Iraq for a year. The next day, Turkey launched an incursion into north-eastern Syria.
Erdogan said Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA), which Turkey supports, requested that Ankara send its troops. But he hasn’t given a timeline for deployment.
In November, Turkey and the GNA signed two controversial agreements on military and security cooperation and maritime borders, with the former providing for the training of military personnel and logistical support.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally recognized government is battling for power in Libya against a rival administration based in the east and led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
In April, Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to seize Libya’s capital, Tripoli.
Vice President Fuat Oktay said Wednesday that Turkey would consider not sending soldiers to Libya – even after the motion is approved – if Haftar’s forces stop their offensive.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has been threatening to target Turkish nationals and businesses in Libya and Turkish ships off the country’s coast, the motion says.
The civil war also threatens Turkey’s interests in the Mediterranean and North Africa, according to the mandate.
Haftar’s forces are backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Istanbul on January 8. Russia and Turkey are already at odds in north-western Syria.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the conservative Iyi (Good) Party voted against the motion.
This is a “call for disaster,” CHP lawmaker Unal Cevikoz told parliament, adding that “this is a war mandate to send Turkish soldiers to fight in Libya rather than a mandate for humanitarian support.”
He suggested a UN peacekeeping force for Libya instead.
But AKP parliamentarian Ismet Yilmaz said Turkey can’t be expected to sit back while Libya appeals for help.
According to the resolution to dispatch the Turkish Armed Forces, the president will “decide on the limit, extent, quantity and timing, to conduct, if necessary, military operations and intervention.”
“We are sending our children to become martyrs in the Libyan desert,” said Iyi Party deputy Aytun Ciray, adding that Turkey should not side with any warring faction in Libya.
Turkey doesn’t need to get involved in new conflicts in the region, Ciray said, adding that the mandate risks putting Turkish soldiers in “a Vietnam-like situation” in Libya.
Parliament should not allow “jihadist fighter tourism” in Libya, HDP lawmaker Tulay Hatimogullari Oruc said about allegations that the government has been sending allied Syrian rebels to the Libyan front.