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Turkey reopens embassy in Libya, vows to support unity efforts

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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey reopened its embassy in Libya on Monday, 2-1/2 years after closing it due to lack of security, becoming the second country to reopen its diplomatic mission in the divided country.

Turkey shut the embassy in Tripoli in 2014 as rival factions fought for control after the overthrow of long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi. Italy became the first country to reopen its embassy in Tripoli earlier this month.

“The reopening of the embassy will allow Turkey to make stronger contributions to efforts to build peace and stability, as well as reconstruction in Libya,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

The road where the embassy is located close to Tripoli’s seafront was closed on Monday, and there was a heavy security presence. The Turkish embassy is about 600 metres from the Italian embassy.

On Jan. 21, less than two weeks after the Italian embassy reopened, a car bomb exploded in a street between the two embassies. A local anti-terrorism unit blamed rival political factions in eastern Libya for the blast, which left two suspected bombers dead.

Both Libya and Tripoli itself are home to myriad armed groups with shifting and conflicting loyalties that have sought to fill the power vacuum created when Gaddafi was killed in 2011.

In 2014, fighting between armed alliances backing opposing political factions resulted in rival governments being set up in the capital and the east. Since March last year a third, U.N.-backed government has been trying to establish itself in Tripoli, but it has been unable to win support from all groups.

“Turkey will continue to support the territorial integrity and national unity of brotherly Libya,” the statement said.

Turkey’s ambassador had been based in Tunisia during the embassy’s closure, while the Turkish consulate general in the western city of Misrata had remained open without interruption.

Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Aidan Lewis; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Dominic Evans