Libyan foreign minister calls on Turkey to withdraw mercenaries

Libya’s foreign minister called on Turkey to withdraw foreign mercenaries from the country ahead of new elections in December. 

On Monday, Najla al-Manqoush, foreign minister of Libya’s interim government, made this statement at a press conference alongside her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu. 

“We call on Turkey to cooperate with us to end the presence of all foreign forces and mercenaries in Libya,” al-Manqoush said. 

“We stress the importance of Turkey's role in putting an end to the war and maintaining a ceasefire,” she added. 

Cavusoglu defended Turkey’s role in Libya and said the presence of its military forces were present under a training agreement reached with the previous government. He added that Turkey was the only country to come to Libya’’s defence after the Libyan National Army (LNA) from the country’s east was bearing down on Tripoli last year. 

“In the face of the attacks on Tripoli, the legitimate government of Libya invited some countries, including us. Only Turkey replied in the affirmative to this call,” he said. 

Cavusoglu accused other parties of equating the presence of Turkish forces to that of foreign mercenaries. 

Turkey deployed foreign mercenaries from Syria to fight alongside the Government of National Accords (GNA) in December 2019. They were recruited from Syrians already fighting for Turkey and lured by high salaries in exchange for fighting against the LNA. Up to 11,000 Syrians are reportedly still in Libya after an earlier report suggested a withdrawal had begun. 

Syrian mercenaries recruited by Russia are also reportedly in Libya as well to fight alongside the LNA. Fighters from the privately owned Wagner Group, close to Russian military intelligence, were prominent during the siege on Tripoli and used as a justification by Turkey to intervene. 

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), another supporter of the LNA, is also accused of sending mercenaries from Sudan to battle in Libya. 

Previously, the United Nations released a report that estimated that 20,000 foreign mercenaries were present in Libya at the end of 2020.