President Donald Trump while meeting with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, April 9, 2019. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times) Image Credit: NYT

Washington: U.S. President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi agreed in a phone call on Thursday that they reject “foreign exploitation” in Libya and urged parties to the conflict to take “urgent steps” to resolve the fighting, the White House said.

The phone call came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent his firmest signal yet that he will deploy troops to support Libya’s internationally recognized government, saying recent commitments between the countries should be seen as a “harbinger of steps” to follow.

Erdogan flew to Tunisia on Wednesday in a surprise visit that included meetings with government officials from neighboring Libya.

While he’s repeatedly discussed the possibility of sending troops to back Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj’s government against Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar, he left no room for doubt at a news conference in Tunis.

“If there is an invitation, we would of course evaluate it,” Erdogan said in a televised press conference with Tunisia’s new president, Kais Saied.

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Erdogan (left) with Tunisian President Kais Saied Image Credit: AP

Haftar, who has mounted an offensive to capture the Libyan capital, Tripoli, says his mission is to rid the country of extremist militias backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey.

He is backed by Russia and Egypt and has received tacit support from the United States after Trump held a phone coversation with him earlier this year.

Haftar already controls most of Libya’s oil facilities, as well as swaths of territory in the country’s east and south.

The deployment of Russian mercenaries since September has further complicated international efforts to end the fighting.

Libya has been wracked by violence ever since the NATO-backed ouster of Moammar Qaddafi in 2011, with the instability turning it into a bastion for Islamist radicals and a magnet for migrants hoping to reach Europe.

Turkey’s parliament last week approved a pact to defend Sarraj’s administration.

The governing AK Party has begun working on a motion to allow deployment of troops in Libya should Sarraj’s government ask for reinforcement, and is expected to present it to parliament in early January, according to state-run TRT television.