Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said his government would stop dealing with Turkey because it was sending weapons to a rival group in Tripoli so “the Libyan people kill each other”.
Two administrations, one in the capital and Thinni’s in the east, have been battling for power since the armed group Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in July and reinstated lawmakers from a previous assembly, four years after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.
“Turkey is a state that is not dealing honestly with us. It’s exporting weapons to us so the Libyan people kill each other,” Thinni told Egyptian TV channel CBC late on Thursday.
A spokesman for Turkey’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied Thinni’s allegations.
“Instead of repeating the same baseless and untrue allegations we advise them to support U.N. efforts for political dialogue,” spokesman Tanju Bilgic said.
“Our policy vis-a-vis Libya is very clear. We are against any external intervention in Libya and we fully support the ongoing political dialogue process under U.N. mediation.”
Turkey is one of a handful of countries which has publicly received officials from the Tripoli government and parliament.
Thinni’s government said this week it would exclude companies from future deals, accusing Ankara of backing the Tripoli government.
He repeated that Turkish firms would be excluded from contracts in territory controlled by his government in the CBC interview, noting that any outstanding bills would be paid.
“We don’t say we are hostile to Turkey but we say we don’t deal with it,” he said.
Critics of Ankara say its Libya policy is an extension of a pro-Islamist agenda which has already seen relations sour with other former allies, notably Egypt.
Thinni also accused Qatar of giving “material” support to the rival side in the Libyan conflict. He did not elaborate.
Army general Khalifa Haftar, who merged his forces with the army in the east to fight Islamist militants, is seen as a potential rival to Thinni. While the alliance has enabled them to win back territory, Haftar has been criticized for air strikes on civilian airports.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for Thinni’s parliament said the assembly’s president would appoint Haftar as top army commander.
In the eastern city of Benghazi on Friday, unknown gunmen shot with what appeared to be anti-aircraft guns at a protest supporting the army and Haftar.
Nobody was hurt but three nearby buildings were hit, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.
The protesters had demanded classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a “terrorist” organization, like in Egypt.
The Brotherhood has a presence in the rival parliament in Tripoli and western Libya.
Thinni’s government accuses it of having ties to militant groups such as Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by Washington for an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where the U.S. ambassador died.
The Brotherhood in Libya says it is a peaceful organization. No more details were immediately available.