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UN envoy warns of ”escalation” in Libya conflict

The UN”s Libya envoy said Monday that military and maritime agreements signed between Turkey and the Tripoli government represent an “escalation” of the conflict in the North African country.

Ghassan Salame”s remarks came as Egypt called for an urgent meeting Tuesday of the Cairo-based Arab League to discuss “developments in Libya and the possibility of an escalation” there.

Libya has been mired in conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, with rival administrations in the east and the west vying for power.

In April, military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in the east, launched an assault to seize the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.

In November Ankara signed a security and military cooperation deal with the GNA and also inked a maritime jurisdiction agreement with the Tripoli government.

In addition, Turkey is preparing to hold a vote in parliament on deploying troops in support of the GNA in its battle against Haftar, who is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.

Speaking to French daily Le Monde, the UN envoy said the agreements signed between Ankara and the GNA represent “a clear escalation of the conflict” in Libya.

He also deplored what he called the “internationalisation of the conflict”, which has deepened further this year, drawing in a plethora of external forces and powers.

“We have seen mercenaries from several nationalities, including Russians, arrive (in Libya) to support Haftar”s forces in Tripoli,” he said.

Salame also noted the presence in Libya of “Arabic-speaking groups, probably from Syria, who are deployed alongside the GNA and the arrival of several planes from Syria to the airport in Benghazi”, a Haftar bastion.

“We are facing an extremely dangerous situation where the credibility of the UN is at stake,” he said, deploring the fact that the UN Security Council has yet to pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the battle for Tripoli.

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