ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Tunisia on Wednesday in a surprise visit for talks with his Tunisian counterpart, his office said, in the first visit by a head of state since Tunisian presidential elections in the autumn.
The visit comes as Turkey has ramped up efforts to strike deals with nations on the Mediterranean, where Ankara has been at odds with Greece over resources off the coast of the divided island of Cyprus.
Last month, Turkey signed a maritime delimitation agreement with Libya’s internationally recognized government, a move that enraged Greece. Athens says the deal violates international law, but Ankara says it aims to protect its rights in the region and is in full compliance with maritime laws.
In a statement, Erdogan’s office said he was accompanied by his foreign and defense ministers, as well as his intelligence chief. It provided no further details on the content or purpose of the talks.
The visit is the first by a head of state to Tunisia since the election of President Kais Saied in October, after Tunisian parliamentary elections.
As part of its expanded cooperation with Tunisia’s neighbor Libya, Ankara also signed a military-cooperation deal with Fayez al-Serraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).
Erdogan has said Turkey may deploy troops in support of the GNA, which has been fighting off a months-long offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces to the east of the country.
On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey may need to draft a bill to send troops into Libya and added the parliament was currently working on it. Ankara’s possible deployment into Libya has also alarmed Russia, which said it was very concerned by such a prospect.
Turkey has already sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations arms embargo, according to a UN report seen by Reuters last month.
Reporting by Can Sezer and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer
Image: FILE PHOTO: Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan leaves 10 Downing Street after meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other heads of state, ahead of the NATO summit in London, Britain December 3, 2019. Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo