Erdoğan says Abu Dhabi bankrolling Russian mercenaries in Libya

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticised Abu Dhabi for backing of Libyan General Khalifa Haftar in a rare direct attack on the Gulf emirate, accusing it of funding Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar’s forces against the U.N.-recognised Tripoli government, Bloomberg reported.

Turkey signed a deal in November to provide military support for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord and has reportedly sent thousands of its Syrian rebel allies to bolster the defence of the capital against Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

Since then, the warring sides have attended rounds of peace talks in Moscow and Berlin, but the Tripoli government says it has been under continued attack from the LNA, rendering the ceasefire agreement meaningless.

Haftar’s forces have taken control of most of the east and south of Libya and captured the strategically important northern city of Sirte earlier this month. The LNA launched an offensive to capture Tripoli last April, and have pushed back the Turkish-backed government’s forces with the help of Emirati air power and, Erdoğan said, with Russian mercenaries paid for by Abu Dhabi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied any state involvement in the deployment of the mercenaries after talks in Moscow on Jan. 11.