(Bloomberg) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lobbed a rare direct attack at the emirate of Abu Dhabi over its backing of Khalifa Haftar and the Russian mercenaries fighting on his behalf in Libya.Abu Dhabi pays for thousands of Russian mercenaries who fight alongside the Libyan general’s forces, which are violating a recent cease-fire brokered by global powers, Erdogan said during a visit to three African states on Monday.The Turkish president’s remarks came shortly after Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli said repeated attacks by Haftar’s forces have rendered a recent truce all but meaningless. A conference convened by Germany had sought a cessation of hostilities to pave the way for an end to the civil war in the North African country.“Haftar is, at the moment, like a desert lord in Libya,” Erdogan told reporters during a flight from Algeria to Gambia, according to a transcript of his remarks published by his office. “He has control in desert areas but not in populated regions.”Turkey is currently monitoring Haftar’s “ugly attempts” to grab more land but will do whatever is necessary to stop him, Erdogan said.The direct criticism once more lays bare tensions between Turkey and the oil-rich Gulf emirate, which has turned into a regional rival in recent years as Erdogan supported Islamist political movements seen as a threat by Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de-facto leader of the United Arab Emirates.Russian mercenaries back Haftar’s forces, officials have told Bloomberg, and he also has support from Egypt and the U.A.E., who see him as a bulwark against Islamic extremists. Turkish soldiers are training forces loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and Turkish-backed Syrian rebels have also joined the conflict.When asked this month about Russian mercenaries operating in Libya, President Vladimir Putin didn’t explicitly deny their presence but wouldn’t specify their number and said they receive no financing from Russia itself.“If there are any Russian citizens there, they neither represent the interests of the Russian state, nor receive funding from the Russian state,” Putin said Jan. 11 after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow.To contact the reporter on this story: Onur Ant in Istanbul at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Riad Hamade at email@example.com, Paul Abelsky, Taylan BilgicFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
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