December 31, 2019 / 3:53 PM / a month ago

Arab League warns against deployment of foreign fighters in Libya

Permanent representatives of the Arab League take part in an emergency meeting to discuss Turkey's plans to send military troops to Libya, at the League's headquarters in Cairo, Egypt December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

CAIRO (Reuters) - The Arab League urged the warring sides in Libya on Tuesday not to do anything that might enable the deployment of foreign fighters in the North African country and worsen its conflict.

The Arab League’s council, its top body, met in Cairo after Egypt called for an emergency meeting on Libya, where eastern-based forces led by military commander Khalifa Haftar are trying to seize the capital Tripoli.

Turkey has said it will seek parliamentary support for sending troops to Libya, and senior Turkish sources have said Ankara is also considering sending allied Syrian fighters as part of the deployment.

Egypt is one of Haftar’s foremost foreign backers. Turkey supports the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.

A statement issued by the Arab League’s council warned of “the gravity of taking any unilateral steps ... in a manner that allows foreign military interventions and contributes to the escalation and prolongation of the conflict”.

“Regional interventions that help among other things in facilitating the transfer of foreign extremist fighters from other regional conflict zones to Libya” should be prevented, it said.

Egypt has been flexing its diplomatic muscles since Turkey signed two accords with the Tripoli government last month, one on security and military cooperation and the other on boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean.

Both sides in Libya have received foreign air support, mainly through drones, and Russian military contractors have been deployed on the front line to help Haftar’s forces in recent months, diplomats and analysts say.

Reporting by Mahmoud Mourad, editing by Aidan Lewis and Timothy Heritage

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