Turkey's parliament is to vote on Thursday on whether to send Turkish troops to Libya, to back the U.N.-supported government in Tripoli that is battling forces loyal to a rival administration in eastern Libya seeking to capture the country's capital.
The Turkish lawmakers are expected to approve the motion at the emergency session called for later in the day, and grant a one-year mandate for the deployment, despite concerns that Turkish forces could aggravate Libya's conflict further and destabilise the region.
The Tripoli-based government of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj has faced an offensive by the rival, east-based government and commander General Khalifa Hafter. The fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violence rivalling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month that Sarraj requested the Turkish deployment, after he and Sarraj signed a military deal that allows Ankara to dispatch military experts and personnel to Libya. That deal, along with a separate agreement on maritime boundaries between Turkey and Libya, has drawn ire across the region and beyond.
Details of the possible Turkish deployment have not been revealed. The motion to be debated in parliament allows the government to decide on the scope, amount and timing of the deployment.
Ankara says the deployment is vital for Turkey to safeguard its interests in Libya and in the eastern Mediterranean, where it finds itself increasingly isolated as Greece, Cyprus, Egypt and Israel have established exclusive economic zones paving the way for oil and gas exploration.
Turkey's main opposition party has made clear it will vote against the motion, saying it would embroil Turkey in another conflict and make it a party to the ``shedding of Muslims' blood.`` It has called on Erdogan's government to search for a diplomatic solution in Libya instead.
However, Erdogan's ruling party is in an alliance with a nationalist party and the two hold sufficient votes for the motion to pass.
The fighting around Tripoli escalated in recent weeks after Hafter declared a "``final and decisive" battle for the capital. He has the backing of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.
His offensive against Sarraj's UN-recognised government began in April and has so far stalled outside the capital. Yet the escalation threatens to plunge the northern African country into further chaos.
``"We will go to places where we are invited to, and not go to places we are not invited to,'' Erdogan said. "At the moment, since there is such an invitation, we will accept this invitation.''
``"We will give the administration in Tripoli every kind of support against the coup-plotting general who is supported by various European and Arab countries,``" Erdogan added, referring to Haftar. ``We are siding with Libya's legal government.``"