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Turkey seeks parliament approval to dispatch troops to Libya

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's government on Monday submitted a motion to parliament seeking approval to deploy troops to Libya, arguing that the conflict in the North African country could escalate into a civil war and threaten Turkey's interests.

Legislators have been summoned to an emergency session in parliament on Thursday to vote for the motion, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, as the government appeared intent on rushing the bill through the assembly. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had initially said the motion would be submitted to parliament after a winter recess that ends on Jan 7.

The motion seeks a one-year mandate to deploy troops in the conflict-ridden country, maintaining that developments in Libya threaten Turkey's interests there, including Turkish businesses in the country and Turkish vessels sailing in the Mediterranean, according to the text of the motion reported by Anadolu.

The government said it would decide on the size, timing and scope of the deployment. Erdogan has said the U.N.-supported government in Libya asked Ankara to send troops to help authorities in Tripoli defend the city from an offensive by rebel forces.

Erdogan said the government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj in Tripoli "invited" Turkey to send troops after the two recently signed a military cooperation agreement. Ankara and Tripoli have also signed a maritime border deal and both agreements have met with criticism across the region and beyond.

Sarraj's administration has faced an offensive since April by the rival government based in eastern Libya and forces loyal to commander Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who is trying to take Tripoli. Earlier, Turkey's main opposition party said it would not support the motion, saying the possible deployment would embroil Turkey in another conflict and make it a party to the "shedding of Muslim blood." It said Turkey must instead "give priority to a diplomatic solution" in Libya.

"We don't want this terrible picture that unfolded in Syria to unfold in yet another country," Unal Cevikoz, the CHP's deputy chairman told reporters after a meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“We will never accept Turkey to be a part of the proxy war in Libya and, by siding with one of the sides of the conflict, for it to be a cause of the shedding of Muslim blood,” Cevikoz said. However, Erdogan's ruling party is in an alliance with a nationalist party, and together the two have sufficient votes to pass the deployment motion.

Cavusoglu, the foreign minister, later also held talks with the leader of another opposition party, to seek support for the motion. That party has not made up its mind about backing the motion, he said.

The fighting around Tripoli escalated in recent weeks after Hifter declared a “final” and decisive battle for the capital. The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violence rivaling the 2011 conflict in which longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed.

Hifter is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

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