May 21 2019

Libya’s Haftar threatens attack on Turkish arms shipments to UN-backed government

Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar has threatened to attack any Turkish vessel docking in western Libya in order to deliver weapons to the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), London-based pan-Arab news outlet Asharq al-Awsat reported on Tuesday.

The threat follows a shipment of weapons, including dozens of Turkish-made BMC Kirpi armoured vehicles, to the GNA from Ankara in broad daylight at the port of the country's capital Tripoli over the weekend, according to their Facebook page.

The delivery was made by a Moldova-flagged vessel belonging to a Turkish firm that set sail from a port in Turkey, AFP reported, citing navigation websites.

Arnaud Delalande, a defence consultant and specialist on Libya, told Asharq al-Awsat that the delivery could be interpreted as an apparent open show of support for the GNA.

Haftar’s eastern-based LNA, backed mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, began an offensive against Tripoli in the west of the country in April, but the offensive has been blocked by forces loyal to the capital on the city’s outskirts.

The government in Tripoli is mainly backed by Turkey and Qatar and the LNA has repeatedly accused Turkey of supporting Islamist factions in the west of the country.

Turkey has denied any involvement in the shipments of arms to Libya.

The LNA’s naval forces under the order of Haftar decided to impose a complete embargo on western Libyan ports to cut supplies to the GNA militias, the outlet said, adding that Faraj al-Mahdawi, the Commander of the LNA naval forces, has threatened to strike any vessel that approaches the ports, particularly Turkish ones.

Haftar is scheduled to travel to France for talks with President Emmanuel Macron while Italian media has reported undisclosed negotiations have been taking place through Rome’s mediation to reach a political solution with Haftar.