Libya's eastern strongman urges troops 'drive out' Turkish forces
The East Libyan mighty Khalifa Haftar has called on his fighters to "evict" the Turkish armed forces, which support the United Nations-recognized government, while talks drag on to end the longstanding war in the oil-rich nation.
"There will be no peace in the presence of a colonizer on our land," said Haftar in a speech on the 69th anniversary of Libya's independence on Thursday.
"We will therefore again take up arms to build our peace with our own hands ... and as Turkey rejects peace and opts for war, we are preparing to drive out the occupiers by faith, will and weapons "said Haftar.
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Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising fell and longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was killed.
The violence-ridden North African country has since been a battlefield for tribal militias, jihadists and mercenaries, and an important gateway for desperate migrants traveling to Europe.
Two rival camps are now vying for power, with Khaftar's government in the east facing the Tripoli-based Government of the National Agreement (GNA), recognized by the United Nations and backed by Ankara.
Turkey's assistance with military advisors, materials and mercenaries helped the GNA to push Haftar's forces back from the gates of Tripoli earlier this year.
Haftar, supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, spoke after Ankara Parliament approved a motion this week to extend the deployment of soldiers in Libya by 18 months.
- 'Dead Letter' -
"Officers and soldiers, get ready," said Haftar on Thursday and called on hundreds of soldiers to parade in a military barracks in the eastern port city of Benghazi.
At the same time, the GNA chief in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, urged the Libyans to "turn disagreements around in order to achieve stability".
This will only happen through "solidarity between the political forces," he said.
A ceasefire, signed under the auspices of the United Nations in October and widely respected, has allowed rival parties to return to the negotiating table.
Sarraj said the elections, scheduled for December 24, 2021, were "a historic opportunity not to be missed".
However, the analysts were less optimistic and warned of difficult challenges.
"The October 23 ceasefire agreement silenced the guns, but is otherwise a dead letter: Both sides have not met their terms and are instead expanding their armed forces," said the International Crisis Group (ICG).
"Neither side seems interested in carrying out their commitments, and both seem determined to keep getting involved."
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