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Turkey clashes with EU over Libya weapons embargo

TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the EU today for “interfering” in Libya by trying to stop him landing troops and weapons there.

Mr Erdogan welcomed the decision by Libya’s UN-backed government, which sits in Tripoli, to walk out of peace talks in Geneva in response to an attack on the city’s port.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation said that missiles struck just yards from a highly explosive liquefied-petroleum-gas tanker.

Rebel General Khalifa Haftar of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) is besieging the capital and already controls most of eastern Libya.

Tripoli’s main fuel-storage warehouse has had to be evacuated, the corporation’s chief Mustafa Sanalla said, and “the consequences will be immediate: hospitals, schools, power stations and other vital services will be disrupted.”

EU foreign ministers agreed this week to formally end Operation Sophia, which was originally a naval mission aimed at stopping human trafficking and rescuing refugees but which ended its maritime patrols last April, leaving search-and-rescue functions to volunteers.

Instead the bloc said that it would launch a new mission aimed at enforcing the arms embargo on Libya.

EU member France has already been implicated in arming General Haftar, though it maintains that it “lost track” of missiles it had purchased and which turned up at an LNA camp.

Turkey is among the countries supporting the Tripoli government and Mr Erdogan has sent weapons and deployed jihadists relocated from Syria to Libya, including fighters aligned with al-Qaida and Isis.

He declared that “the EU does not have any right to make any decision concerning Libya. It is trying to interfere.”

Turkey, he vowed, would ensure that the Tripoli-based government is able to “establish dominance” across Libya.

Gen Haftar said that the strike at Tripoli’s seaport was an attempt to “weaken the combat capabilities” of jihadist mercenaries being massed by Turkey in the city.

The UN’s support mission in Libya said the attack was a “big breach” of a ceasefire between the two sides mediated by Turkey and Russia which, like France, Israel and Egypt, supports Gen Haftar, but both sides have already broken the truce multiple times.

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