Erdogan in Tunisia for Surprise Talks on Libya

Visit comes as Turkey ramps up efforts to strike deals with nations on the Mediterranean, which included an agreement with Libya's internationally recognized government, a move that enraged Greece

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisian President Kais Saied at the airport in Tunis, December 25, 2019
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Tunisian President Kais Saied at the airport in Tunis, December 25, 2019Credit: AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tunisia on Wednesday in a surprise visit for talks with his Tunisian counterpart, his office said, in the first visit by a head of state since Tunisian presidential elections in the autumn.

Erdogan said the two leaders discussed possible steps and cooperation to establish a ceasefire in Libya.

In a news conference alongside Saied, Erdogan said he believed Tunisia would have "valuable and constructive" contributions to establishing stability in Libya, and added that a ceasefire must be established as soon as possible.

The visit comes as 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. 

Last month, Turkey with Libya's internationally recognised government, a move that enraged Greece. Athens says the deal violates international law, but Ankara says it aims to protect its rights in the region and is in full compliance with maritime laws.

In a statement, Erdogan's office said he was accompanied by his foreign and defence ministers, as well as his intelligence chief. It provided no further details on the content or purpose of the talks.

The visit is the first by a head of state to Tunisia since the election of President , after Tunisian parliamentary elections.

As part of its expanded cooperation with Tunisia's neighbour , Ankara also signed a military-cooperation deal with Fayez al-Serraj's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Erdogan has said Turkey may deploy troops in support of the GNA, which has been fighting off a months-long offensive by Khalifa Haftar's forces to the east of the country.

On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey may need to draft a bill to send troops into Libya and added the parliament was currently working on it. Ankara's possible deployment into Libya has , which said it was very concerned by such a prospect.

Turkey has already sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations arms embargo, according to a UN report seen by Reuters last month.

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