Tunisian Foreign Minister Taieb Baccouche has accused Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government of indirectly helping terrorism in Libya by allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq and Syria to join terrorist groups via Turkish territory.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Baccouche said, “We have asked our ambassador in Turkey to draw the attention of the Turkish authorities to the fact that we do not want a Muslim nation such as Turkey to help directly or indirectly terrorism in Libya by facilitating the movements of terrorists,” according to AFP.
Turkey has been facing heavy criticism from Western countries for allegedly turning a blind eye to foreign fighters crossing into Syria and Iraq. Turkey denies those claims and says that to stop the flow of fighters, it needs more intelligence sharing and cooperation, especially with European countries.
Baccouche’s accusation came just two weeks after a terrorist cell loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on tourists at Tunisia’s Bardo National Museum. The Tunisian foreign minister said that Turkey was a “passage point” for fighters who wanted to cross into Syria and for those who travel to Libya and then infiltrate across the porous border into Tunisia. Tunisia has said that the two gunmen who killed 22 foreign tourists and a police officer at the Bardo on March 18 had been trained in the use of weapons in Libya, where ISIL has gained a foothold recently.
About 3,000 of Tunisians are fighting for terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq and Libya, according to Tunisia.
Last month, Libya’s internationally recognized prime minister, Abdullah al-Thani, also criticized Turkey in an interview with the Asharq al-Awsat daily, saying that “what is coming from Turkey has a negative impact on the security and stability of Libya.”
Turkey insists that its approach to Libya is no different from that of the United Nations, which only recognizes the al-Thani government. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s special envoy to Libya, Emrullah İşler, met with Omar al-Hasi — Libya’s self-declared prime minister — in al-Hasi’s first publicly known diplomatic meeting with a foreign representative last year in October, puzzling the international community. Turkey says it supports a more representative, national government in Libya that includes all segments of the society based on dialogue.