CAIRO - The Libyan national unity government based in Tripoli is asking Turkey, the U.S. and several European countries to defend the government, as forces loyal to eastern military commander General Khalifa Haftar called on militias fighting in Tripoli and Misratat to lay down their arms.
Forces loyal to Haftar exchanged gunfire Friday with militias fighting under the banner of the Tripoli-based national unity government south and east of the capital. Libyan fighter jets, also loyal to Haftar, bombed targets and weapons depots inside Misrata and south of the capital.
The spokesman for Haftar's Libyan National Army told journalists Friday that his forces were making "pre-emptive airstrikes against three separate locations near Tripoli that were expected landing points for Turkish military forces." VOA could not independently confirm the claim that Turkish forces were planning to enter the battle.
Turkish media, nevertheless, reported that Libya's unity Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj officially activated a Nov. 27 military pact between Ankara and Tripoli calling for Turkish logistic and military support to prevent the fall of his government.
Sarraj also reportedly called on the U.S., Germany, Italy and Turkey, to intervene to protect his government, which is officially recognized by the international community. Despite that recognition, many countries, including France, Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia reportedly are supporting Haftar.
Mohammed al-Zubeidi, a Libyan law professor, told Arab media, however, that "Sarraj is just calling on the U.S., Germany and Italy as a fig-leaf to cover up his call for Turkish intervention in the Libyan conflict."
Haftar's military spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Almasmari, claimed that his forces were "advancing inside and outside the capital, Tripoli," and called on militias fighting his forces, some of which are based in Misrata, to "lay down their arms by midnight Sunday," and withdraw peacefully.
He says the (Libyan National Army) is sending a message to the representatives of Misrata to pull out their forces from Tripoli and lay down their arms by midnight Sunday, if they do not want to face reprisals or further airstrikes on their city.
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement, according to Russian media, saying the "possible deployment of Turkish troops in Libya is a source of worry" because it "could trigger a reaction from neighboring states."
Russian President Vladimir Putin said during his annual press conference with journalists Thursday he was "in contact with all regional parties to try and end the conflict in Libya." Russia reportedly has mercenaries fighting in Libya on the side of Haftar.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi told Egyptian media several days ago that "Egypt has the capability of intervening in Libya if needed, but has respected diplomatic norms until now, by not doing so."
Egypt does reportedly help train Haftar's forces and maintains some of his aging Russian air force jets.
Source: Voice of America