Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has condemned the Abu Dhabi over its involvement in the Libyan war, alleging that emirate finances Russian mercenaries fighting on behalf of rogue General Khalifa Haftar.
Mohammad bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi crown prince and de-facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, has become a regional rival of Erdogan’s in recent years, backing Haftar‘s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) against the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
In a rare direct attack on the emirate, the Turkish president said Abu Dhabi had paid thousands to send Russian mercenaries to fight alongside Haftar’s forces, Bloomberg reported.
Erdogan‘s comments came on Monday as he met with the leaders of three African states, including Algeria, shortly after the Tripoli-based government slammed the LNA for repeatedly breaking a ceasefire brokered earlier this month.
Turkey is monitoring Haftar’s “ugly attempts” to take more land despite the truce but will do whatever is necessary to stop him, Erdogan said.
“Haftar is, at the moment, like a desert lord in Libya,” he told reporters. “He has control in desert areas but not in populated regions.”
Both Abu Dhabi and Ankara have been accused of breaking a United Nations arms embargo on Libya in support of the warring parties.
In recent months, Turkey has mulled direct intervention in the conflict, threatening to send troops to assist Tripoli if Haftar does not stop his assault on the capital. Earlier this month, Ankara dispatched military advisors to train forces loyal to the Tripoli government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.
Erdogan has also reportedly assisted by deploying more than 2,000 Syrian rebels to fight alongside the internationally recognised government. The Guardian reported the rebels have signed lucrative contacts with the Tripoli government, in addition to promises of Turkish citizenship.
Russia too has been accused of violating the arms embargo by shipping mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed private Wagner Group to fight alongside Haftar’s forces.
Moscow has officially denied involvement but has not rejected claims of the mercenaries’ presence in the conflict.
“If there are any Russian citizens there, they neither represent the interests of the Russian state, nor receive funding from the Russian state,” President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month.
While it is unclear whether Erdogan’s claims of Emirati financing of the Russian mercenaries are true, Abu Dhabi was last week accused of tricking Sudanese men to fight in the conflict.
Dozens of people protested outside the Emirati embassy in Khartoum on Sunday after allegations that a UAE-based security company was luring Sudanese men to the country under false pretences and forcing them into military training went viral.
After responding to an advertisement for security guards, the men are allegedly forced into a military training camp in the desert and thereafter sent to fight in Libya or Yemen, local media reported.