Erdoğan arrives in Tunisia for surprise talks over Libya deal

(Updates with Erdoğan's comments, paragraphs 4-7)


Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan arrived in Tunisia on Wednesday in an unannounced visit for talks with Tunisian President Kais Saied on recently signed Turkish-Libyan deals, Reuters reported.

"The visit comes as Turkey has ramped up efforts to strike deals with nations on the Mediterranean, where Ankara has been at odds with Greece over resources off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus," Reuters said.

Erdoğan is accompanied by his foreign and defence ministers, as well as his intelligence chief, Reuters said, citing a statement by the Turkish presidency.

"I believe that Tunisia will have valuable and constructive contributions to the efforts to ensure stability in Libya," Erdoğan said in a joint conference with Saied following the meeting.

Tunisia borders Libya and many in the south of the country are reliant on an informal economy that relies on the smuggling from Libya of heavily subsidised goods such as oil.

The Turkish president also reiterated that Turkish soldiers may be deployed in Libya, if the U.N.-recognised government of Libya were to make such a request.

"We have never been intruders anywhere. If there is an invitation, of course, we will consider it," Erdoğan said.

Turkey is at odds with Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel over potentially rich gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions have further increased since Ankara struck two deals with the Tripoli government last month; an agreement that sees Turkey and Libya as maritime neighbours, and a security agreement that allows Turkey to transfer arms and troops to help the Tripoli government.

Greece says the maritime deal ignores the territorial waters around its islands of Rhodes and Crete and is meant to block a pipeline it plans to build with Cyprus, Egypt and Israel to take gas to Europe.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-tunisia-erdogan/turkey-says-erdogan-in-tunisia-for-surprise-talks-with-president-idUSKBN1YT0DQ