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Libya urges Turkey to 'cooperate' over foreign troops pullout

Foreign minister calls on Ankara to facilitate the removal of foreign forces 'in order to preserve the sovereignty' of Libya
Cavusoglu criticised those who 'suggest... the Turkish presence in Libya is equivalent to that of illegitimate groups' at Monday's news conference (AFP)

Libya's new interim government urged Turkey on Monday to "cooperate" over the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from the country, to help bolster a seven-month-old ceasefire.

"We call on Turkey to cooperate with us to put an end to the presence of all foreign forces and mercenaries, in order to preserve the sovereignty of Libya," Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush said.

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Libya's interim government came into being in March, replacing two rival administrations - one based in Tripoli and the other in the country's east.

The previous Tripoli-based administration relied heavily on Turkish military backing to repel a 2019-20 offensive by eastern commander Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar was in backed by the eastern administration and foreign powers ranging from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to Russia.

Both outgoing administrations gave their support to the new interim government, mandated to lead the country to elections in December amid a ceasefire agreed in October.

Cavusoglu visit

Mangoush spoke on Monday at a news conference alongside Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who is visiting Tripoli.

She stressed the "importance of Turkey's contribution to ending fighting and the stabilisation of the ceasefire throughout the country". 

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Cavusoglu for his part criticised those who "suggest... the Turkish presence in Libya is equivalent to that of illegitimate groups".

Cooperation between Turkey and Libya within the framework of a military accord signed in late 2019 "avoided Libya sinking into civil war," he added. 

"Our support has opened the way to a ceasefire and the installation of a new unified political executive."

The establishment of the new government has generated cautious hope that the country can move beyond the conflict and chaos that has entrapped it since the overthrow and killing of longtime leader Muammer Gaddafi in 2011.

However, the continued presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries, estimated by the UN at 20,000, is widely perceived as a threat to the transition process.