Libyan PM says Turkey supplying weapons to rival Tripoli group

CAIRO/BENGHAZI (Reuters) - Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said his government would stop dealing with Turkey because it was sending weapons to a rival group in Tripoli so that “the Libyan people kill each other”.

Libya's internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bayda February 15, 2015. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Two administrations, one in the capital and Thinni’s in the east, have been battling for power since the armed group Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in July and reinstated lawmakers from a previous assembly, four years after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.

“Turkey is a state that is not dealing honestly with us. It’s exporting weapons to us so the Libyan people kill each other,” Thinni told Egyptian TV channel CBC late on Thursday.

A spokesman for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied Thinni’s allegations.

“Instead of repeating the same baseless and untrue allegations, we advise them to support U.N. efforts for political dialogue,” ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said.

“Our policy vis-a-vis Libya is very clear. We are against any external intervention in Libya and we fully support the ongoing political dialogue process under U.N. mediation.”

Turkey is one of a handful of countries which has publicly received officials from the Tripoli government and parliament.

The Turkish government has also invited the speaker of the House of Representatives from the internationally recognized administration to Turkey but he did not accept, Bilgic said.


Thinni’s government earlier this week accused Ankara of backing the Tripoli government.

In the CBC interview, Thinni said Turkish firms would be excluded from contracts in territory controlled by his government, adding that any outstanding bills would be paid.

“We don’t say we are hostile to Turkey but we say we don’t deal with it,” he said.

Critics of Ankara say its Libya policy is an extension of a pro-Islamist agenda which has already seen relations sour with other former allies, notably Egypt.

Thinni also accused Qatar of giving “material” support to the rival side in the Libyan conflict. He did not elaborate.

In the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday, unknown gunmen shot with what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns at a protest supporting the army and Haftar.

Nobody was hurt but three nearby buildings were hit, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

The protesters had demanded classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organization, like in Egypt.

The Brotherhood has a presence in the rival parliament in Tripoli and western Libya.

Thinni’s government accuses the Brotherhood of having ties to militant groups such as Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by Washington for an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which the U.S. ambassador died.

The Brotherhood in Libya says it is a peaceful organization. No more details were immediately available.

Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Alison Williams and Gareth Jones