Turkey’s defense ministry said Sunday it is ready to retaliate against any attacks on Turkish vessels and interests by the forces of Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar.
Its warning came before Haftar’s war information division said on Facebook that the LNA destroyed a Turkish drone at Tripoli’s Mitiga military air base.
Air traffic was halted on Sunday at the Libyan capital’s only functioning civilian airport, also at Mitiga, after what was described as an air strike.
Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar said there would be “heavy” consequences to any “hostile attitude or attacks.”
An LNA spokesman had called Turkish assets in Libya “legitimate targets,” accusing Turkey of helping rival militias allied with the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
Haftar ordered the LNA to target Turkish ships and companies, ban flights and arrest Turkish nationals in Libya, his spokesman said Friday.
But Akar stressed on Sunday that Turkey was in Libya to support “regional peace and stability.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also said in a statement that six Turkish citizens were being held by LNA forces, and that they would become a “legitimate target” if the captives were not released immediately.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has confirmed his country backs the GNA and provides weapons to it under a “military cooperation agreement”.
When asked about the threat on Saturday, Erdogan said he was not aware of it, but Turkey would take necessary measures after evaluating the situation.
The LNA controls much of the country’s east and south. It launched an offensive in April to liberate Tripoli from the GNA-backed militias.