Turkish lawmakers have begun a debate on whether to authorise the deployment of troops to Libya to support the UN-backed government in Tripoli, with a vote expected later on Thursday.
An emergency session was called to discuss the motion, which will allow the government to decide on the timing and scope of the deployment and the number of armed forces to be sent.
The mandate to send soldiers for one year, which was signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and sent to parliament on Monday for approval, is expected to pass.
Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have a parliamentary majority.
The Turkish president said the Government of National Accord (GNA), which Turkey supports, requested that Ankara send its troops.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally recognised government is battling for power against a rival administration based in the east and led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
In April, Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to seize Libya’s capital, Tripoli.
Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has been threatening to target Turkish nationals and businesses in Libya and Turkish ships off the country’s coast, the motion says.
The civil war also threatens Turkey’s interests in the Mediterranean and North Africa, according to the mandate.
Haftar’s forces are backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Istanbul on Jan. 8.
According to the resolution to dispatch the Turkish Armed Forces, the president will “decide on the limit, extent, quantity, and timing, to conduct, if necessary, military operation and intervention”.
Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Wednesday that Turkey would consider not sending soldiers to Libya – even after the motion is approved – if Haftar’s forces stopped their offensive.
The AKP has 290 seats and the MHP has 49 seats of the 589 lawmakers eligible to vote.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the conservative Iyi (Good) Party are expected to vote against the motion.
CHP lawmaker Ozgur Ozel criticised the decision to call an emergency session of parliament, saying the move was against the constitution.
In November, Turkey and the GNA signed two controversial agreements on military and security cooperation and maritime borders.
Turkey’s parliament has approved similar mandates in the past.
On Oct. 8, it passed a motion to dispatch soldiers to Syria and Iraq for a year.
The next day, Turkey launched an incursion into north-eastern Syria. (dpa/NAN)