ANKARA - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Ankara will implement its two agreements with the Libyan government on defense and maritime rights this year, a few days ahead of a parliament vote on deploying troops to the North African country.
Erdogan's comment came just a day after the Turkish government sent to parliament a bill authorizing troop deployment to Libya.
"The Memorandum of Understanding on Security and Military Cooperation and the Memorandum of Understanding on Delimitation of the Maritime Jurisdiction Areas between Turkey and Libya brought about gains of great strategic importance for our country," the Turkish president said in his New Year message.
Ankara signed the security and military cooperation accords with Libya last month, angering a camp that has been laying claims to power in the country.
Since 2014, Libya has been divided between two rival camps: one based in the eastern city of Tobruk, and the other, the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, in the capital, Tripoli.
A renegade general, Khalifa Haftar, is the self-proclaimed commander of an array of militia groups and apparently supports the eastern camp.
In April, Haftar's forces launched an offensive to capture Tripoli. Despite intense and deadly clashes between the two sides, Haftar has so far failed to achieve his objective, and his offensive has stalled outside the capital.
On Saturday, Haftar's forces seized a Turkish ship, but released it after searching it for weapons.
Ankara says it is determined to back the Libyan government against Haftar's militia and restore stability to Libya.
The Turkish parliament has already approved the bilateral security and maritime accords. The Libyan government has also ratified the agreements.
But the Turkish parliament needs to issue a separate mandate for troop deployment to Turkey.
On Tuesday, Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop called an extraordinary meeting of the parliament on January 2 to vote on the motion.
The Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey's biggest opposition party, objected to the bill on Monday. However, Erdogan's Justice and Development (AK) Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), another major party in the parliament that is allied to the AKP, together have sufficient votes to pass the deployment motion.
The maritime deal between Turkey and Libya has also angered neighboring Greece, which slammed it as an "infringement on its sovereignty" that could complicate Athens' decades-old disputes with Ankara over Cyprus and maritime rights in the Aegean Sea. Greece has already expelled the Libyan ambassador to Athens over the deal.
The Turkish leader, however, rejected Athens's claims.
"These two memoranda have expanded and enhanced much further the process we had initiated via an agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)," Erdogan further said.
"The projects aimed at entirely excluding Turkey from the Mediterranean have thus been wholly thwarted with our recent steps," Erdogan said, referring to initiatives by Greece, Greek Cyprus, the Israeli regime, and Egypt for an expanded use of the hydrocarbon reserves of the Mediterranean basin.
The memorandum of understanding on the maritime jurisdiction areas with Libya is regarded as strategic for Ankara as it strengthens its hands against claims by Greece and the Greek Cypriot government.
"The full implementation of these agreements will be facilitated by the support we will lend to the legitimate Tripoli government in Libya," Erdogan said.
Libya has been the scene of chaos since 2011, when former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled after an uprising and a NATO military intervention.