Tensions are rising in Libya after the strongman Khalifa Hafta called on his fighters to “drive out” Turkish forces backing the UN-recognised government, as talks drag on to end long-running war in the oil-rich nation.
Marking the country’s 69th anniversary on Thursday he said: “There will be no peace in the presence of a coloniser on our land.”
“We will therefore take up arms again to fashion our peace with our own hands… and, since Turkey rejects peace and opts for war, prepare to drive out the occupier by faith, will and weapons,” Haftar said.
Hafter’s administration and his Turkish backed rival, the GNA, returned to the negotiating table after a ceasefire was signed and generally respected in October.
But experts say despite the violence halting- the sides have backtracked on fulfilling terms and build military forces.
Libya was thrown into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and led to the killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
“Officers and soldiers, get ready”
Two rival camps now vie for power, with Khaftar’s eastern-based administration pitted against the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), recognised by the United Nations and backed by Ankara.
Turkey’s help with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries helped the GNA push back Haftar’s forces from the gates of Tripoli earlier this year.
Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, spoke after Ankara’s parliament this week adopted a motion extending the deployment of soldiers in Libya by 18 months.
“Officers and soldiers, get ready”, Haftar said Thursday, calling out to hundreds of soldiers on parade in a military barracks in the eastern port city of Benghazi.
At the same time, the GNA-head in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, called on Libyans to “turn the page on disagreements to achieve stability”.
This will only happen through “solidarity between political forces”, he said.