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Erdogan says Turkey already sending soldiers to Libya

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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to deliver a speech at an event in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. Turkey's government on Monday submitted a motion to parliament seeking approval to deploy troops to Libya, to help authorities in Tripoli defend the city from an offensive by rival forces, arguing that the conflict in the North African country could escalate into a civil war and threaten Turkey's interests. (Presidential Press Service via AP, Pool)

ISTANBUL – Turkey’s president said Sunday that the country was deploying military units to Libya, where Ankara is supporting the embattled U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli.

Turkey’s parliament authorized the deployment of troops to Libya on Thursday, following a separate deal on sending military experts and weapons signed into law in December.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised interview that Turkish soldiers were “already going gradually” to Libya. He said Turkish soldiers were tasked with “coordination” at a command center.

“The goal of the Turkish armed forces is not to fight, but to ensure a cease-fire in Libya” while supporting the government in Tripoli, Erdogan said, calling it the “legitimate government.” Erdogan's comments were carried by broadcaster CNN Turk.

The Tripoli-based government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj has faced an offensive by the rival regime in the east and forces loyal to commander Gen. Khalifa Hifter. The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Ankara supports Sarraj's government along with Italy and Qatar.

The eastern government is supported by France Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries.