Libya’s eastern govt opens embassy in Syria, pledges united front against Turkey
Libya’s eastern-based government linked to the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Hahftar has opened an embassy in Syria on Tuesday and called for the two countries to unite in their common fight against Turkey-backed militant groups.
Libya has not had any representation in Damascus since 2012, following the fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
The opening of the embassy comes as tensions spiral between the Syrian regime and Turkish forces in northwestern Syria, where bombardment has killed dozens of troops on each side.
Libya has two governments, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli, and another based in Benghazi, east of the country.
The eastern commander Haftar who leads the LNA forces launched an assault to capture Tripoli months earlier, and is fighting forces aligned with the government there which are backed militarily by Turkey.
“Terrorism will kill any Arab country if it’s permitted and if the criminal (President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan is permitted to win this fight,” Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said at a ceremony to open the embassy.
President Bashar al-Assad has looked to shed his country’s pariah status and regain Arab support. In December 2018, the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy, followed by Bahrain.
Libya’s diplomatic missions are generally aligned with the government based in Tripoli, but diplomats in some foreign capitals have supported the rival government based in the east.
Haftar, backed by the Syrian regime’s main ally Russia, vowed to end the rule of militias that include hardline groups linked to al-Qaeda and others. General Haftar has reportedly received support from international allies opposed to extremism and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Syria’s conflict, sparked by the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.