The Turkish Defence Ministry said Akar is there to inspect Turkish forces and have talks with Libyan officials to discuss military cooperation between Tripoli and Ankara.

Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar (L) meets with President of the Libyan Chairman of the High Council of State Khalid Al-Mishri in the capital Tripoli, on December 26, 2020.
Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar (L) meets with President of the Libyan Chairman of the High Council of State Khalid Al-Mishri in the capital Tripoli, on December 26, 2020. (AFP)

Turkey's Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has made a surprise trip to Libya on Saturday, two days after warlord Khalifa Haftar threatened to attack Turkish forces supporting the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli.

The Turkish Defence Ministry said Akar is there to inspect Turkish forces and have talks with Libyan officials to discuss military cooperation between Tripoli and Ankara.

Turkey has backed the Tripoli-based, UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) with military advisors and material against an offensive last year by the eastern-based Haftar.

Ankara also has a large military base in al Watiya region on Libya's border with Tunisia.

Akar's visit to Tripoli also came after the Turkish parliament this week adopted a motion extending the deployment of forces in Libya by 18 months.

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Akar's meetings in Libya

Upon landing in the Libyan capital, Akar held talks with his counterpart Salahaddin Namroush and then met Khaled al Meshri, who heads the High State Council aligned with the GNA, an official statement said.

Turkish and Libyan officials agreed during the talks to "pursue their coordination in a bid to repel any hostile" action by Haftar that could destabilise Libya, the statement added.

Turkish support for the GNA helped stave off the April 2019 offensive by Haftar, who is backed by Russia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates.

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Chaos

Libya was thrown into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and led to the killing of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Wracked by violence since then, the North African country has become a battleground for tribal militias, terrorists, and mercenaries and a major gateway for desperate migrants bound for Europe.

Two rival camps now vie for power, with an eastern-based administration -- backed by Haftar -- pitted against the Tripoli-based GNA.

But in October the two sides struck a ceasefire agreement, which has been generally respected, setting the stage for elections at the end of 2021.

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On Saturday, Namroush told local media that Libya was striving to build a military institution that respects international norms.

"The Turks have helped the GNA and we thank them for that. But now we wish to reorganise the Libyan army and inject new blood into it," he said.

Akar is also expected to attend a graduation ceremony in Tripoli for military cadets who were trained in Turkey as part of the cooperation with the GNA, Libyan defence ministry sources told AFP.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies