Istanbul, Geneva: Pro-Turkish Syrian fighters are in Libya alongside training teams despatched by Ankara, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed for the first time on Friday.
“Turkey is there with a training force. There are also people from the Syrian National Army,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, referring to the group of rebel fighters formerly known as the Free Syrian Army.
Turkey supports the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and sent dozens of military training personnel after the two countries signed deals last year.
The GNA has been under sustained attack for months from the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar. Last month, the warring sides agreed a ceasefire and although there have been violations they have held two rounds of talks in Geneva.
Haftar said on Friday his conditions for a ceasefire were “withdrawal of Syria and Turkish mercenaries, Turkey stopping supplies of weapons to Tripoli and the liquidation of terrorist groups”. “A ceasefire [would be] the result of a number of conditions being fulfilled ... the withdrawal of Syrian and Turkish mercenaries, an end to Turkish arms supplies to Tripoli, and the liquidation of terrorist groups [in Tripoli],” Haftar said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said on Friday ceasefire talks were back on track.
There was no immediate comment from the GNA, which withdrew from the talks on Tuesday.
Five military officers from both sides have been holding indirect talks meeting in separate rooms with the UN envoy Gassan Salame shuttling between them, but with no sign of any progress on the ground.
“The talks will continue today [Friday] and they will be getting under way shortly. So things are still happening on that front,” UN spokesman Rheal LeBlanc told reporters in Geneva.