Turkey warns Libya's Haftar and supporters against attacking its forces
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar warned on Sunday that the forces of Khalifa Haftar and her supporters in eastern Libya would be viewed as "legitimate targets" if they attempted to attack Turkish forces in the region.
Turkey is the main foreign supporter of the internationally recognized Libyan Government of the National Agreement (GNA) based in Tripoli, which has been fighting for years against Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA). The LNA is supported by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
In October, the GNA and LNA signed a ceasefire agreement, and the United Nations advanced a political dialogue aimed at next year's elections as the solution. On Wednesday, Russia called for international efforts to reach a peace settlement in Libya to be intensified.
During a visit to Turkish forces in Tripoli, Akar said Haftar had recently started making calls against Turkish forces in Libya demanding attacks on Turkish forces and instead urged all parties to support political talks instead.
"This war criminal, thug Haftar and his supporters should know that if an attack is attempted against Turkish forces, the armed forces of the killer Haftar will be viewed as legitimate targets everywhere," said Akar.
"You should get this in your head. If you do this, there will be nowhere to run," he said. "Everyone should help to find a political solution here. Every other step is wrong."
Turkey has sent military personnel and equipment to the GNA to turn the war in Libya, while holding talks with Moscow to find a solution to the conflict between the GNA and the LNA.
Both sides have stopped withdrawing forces from the front, as required by the armistice. A panel of U.N. experts has cited foreign supporters on both sides as violating an arms embargo against Libya.
Last month, Turkey and Germany exchanged barbs against the search for a Turkish cargo ship by a European Union military mission in the Mediterranean to enforce the Libyan arms embargo. This was labeled illegal in Ankara.
That month, the LNA also intercepted a Turkish ship flying the Jamaican flag that was heading for the port of Misrata, triggering an angry reprimand from Ankara. The ship was later released.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Jason Neely)
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