Erdoğan arrives in Tunisia for surprise talks with president

Turkish leader’s visit comes as Ankara moves to strike deals with Mediterranean nations

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has arrived in Tunisia on a surprise  visit for talks with his Tunisian counterpart, his office has said.

The visit, the first by a head of state since the Tunisian presidential elections in the autumn, 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 recognised 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, Erdoğan’s office said he was accompanied on Wednesday by his foreign and defence ministers, as well as his intelligence chief.

Erdoğan said he had discussed with his Tunisian counterpart, Kais Saied, possible steps and cooperation to establish a ceasefire in Libya.

At a news conference alongside Saied, Erdoğan said he believed Tunisia would have “valuable and constructive” contributions to creating stability in Libya, and added that a ceasefire must be established as soon as possible.

The visit is the first by a head of state to Tunisia since the election of Saied in October, after parliamentary elections.

As part of its expanded cooperation with Tunisia’s neighbour Libya, Ankara also signed a military cooperation deal with Fayez al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord.

Erdoğan 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, the presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkey may need to draft a bill to send troops into Libya, adding that parliament was 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 UN arms embargo, according to a UN report last month.

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