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Libyan rebels seize boat with Turkish crew after Ankara backs pact with government

LIBYA’S rebel Libyan National Army (LNA) seized a ship with a Turkish crew on Saturday, just hours after Turkey’s parliament voted for a defence pact with the United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli.

The LNA said it had escorted the Grenada-flagged ship to a Libyan port for inspection. Turkey has sent arms to the Tripoli government and LNA commander General Khalifa Haftar has warned that any ships trying to deliver weapons to it will be stopped. Turkey has also signed a maritime agreement with the official government, granting it sweeping exploitation rights across the Mediterranean, which is rejected by the LNA as well as the Egyptian, Greek, Cypriot and Israeli governments.

The deal ratified by Turkey’s parliament allows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to deploy troops to Libya if asked, as well as advisers and military equipment. The opposition Republican People’s Party opposed the pact, with MP Unal Cevikoz saying it would “add fuel to the fire” in Libya.

“Do you want to protect the interests of our country? Then don’t be party to the war in Libya. Don’t send weapons and fighters to Libya,” he warned.

Gen Haftar controls most of Libya’s territory and has been fighting to seize control of the capital for months. His forces are backed by Egypt, France, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, and allegedly Russia, though Moscow denies this. The official government is supported by Italy and Qatar as well as the United States, though President Donald Trump has praised the rebels.

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