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Turkey will hold the UAE accountable at right place and time: Defence minister

Hulusi Akar issues broadside against Ankara's regional rival, accusing Abu Dhabi of seeking to harm his country
Fayez al-Sarraj (R), Prime Minister of Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) receives Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, in the Libyan capital Tripoli on 3 July (AFP)
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Istanbul

Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar has accused the UAE of committing "malicious acts" in Libya and Syria and vowed that Ankara would hold it accountable "at the right place and time", according to interview excerpts released by Al Jazeera on Thursday.

"The UAE supports terrorist organisations hostile to Turkey with the intention of harming us," Akar is quoted as saying. "The UAE should consider its small size and the extent of its influence and should not spread sedition and corruption."

Akar also said that the United Arab Emirates was a "useful" country for others. "[They] serve others politically or militarily and [they] are used remotely," he said.

Ankara and the UAE have had a very combative relationship since the 2016 failed coup in Turkey, when Turkish officials began to publicly question whether the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, had something to do with the conspiracy.

'The UAE should consider its small size and the extent of its influence and should not spread sedition and corruption'

- Hulusi Akar, Turkish defence minister

Last May, in a blunt statement, the Turkish foreign ministry accused the Emiratis of backing notorious Somali militant group al-Shabab, as well as the Southern Transitional Council's separatist ambitions in Yemen.

The two countries are locked in a bitter regional struggle, which recently intensified in Libya, where they support opposing parties.

Turkey suspects that a UAE-owned aircraft earlier this month was used to target Turkish air defence systems at al-Watiya air base in western Libya, which was seized by the Turkish-backed and UN-recognised Government of National Accord earlier this year.

Akar, in the same interview, also called the backers of Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) to stop supporting the eastern commander. Haftar waged a 14-month-long campaign to seize Tripoli from the GNA, which was thwarted with Turkish support earlier this year.

The LNA has retreated to the strategic central city of Sirte and al-Juffra air base, positions coveted by the GNA, which is poised to attack.

"If the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia and France do not stop their support, Haftar will not stabilise," he said. "These countries should prevent Haftar from achieving his goals and solve the problem of Sirte and al-Juffra."

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Despite a UN weapons embargo on Libya, Turkey signed a military cooperation deal with the GNA and sent drones, armoured vehicles, Syrian mercenaries and military officers to support the government, which had been struggling to fight off Haftar's offensive to capture the capital.

The GNA won a series of victories against the LNA as a result, including the seizure of the strategic al-Watiya air base, which has seen the eastern commander's yearlong offensive in western Libya crumble.

Neighbouring Egypt, which backs Haftar militarily, declared last month that Sirte and Juffra were a red line that should not be crossed, and threatened to take action.

Akar said Egypt should reconsider its statements on Libya. "I recommend Egypt avoiding statements that do not serve peace in Libya, but rather fuel the war," he said.