Turkey says Tripoli backs energy deal despite court suspension
ANKARA, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Libya's Government of National Unity (GNU) told Turkey "not to take seriously" a court ruling that suspended an energy exploration deal that the Tripoli government signed with Ankara last year, the Turkish foreign minister said on Thursday.
A Libyan court on Monday suspended the energy exploration deal that had angered other Mediterranean powers and inflamed Libya's own internal crisis.
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Speaking in a live TV broadcast, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara had been in touch with Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, head of the Tripoli-based GNU.
"This court ruling is not the final verdict. The government still backs the deal and they told us that they are proceeding with the necessary work and we should not take this court ruling seriously," Cavusoglu said.
Tripoli's appeals court, which issued Monday's decision, left room for the GNU to appeal.
"This is a preliminary ruling... The government can take procedures of complaint... on the case. The case is not finalised until a final ruling is issued in the matter," GNU spokesperson Mohamed Hamouda told Reuters on Thursday.
The deal had spurred rivalry in the eastern Mediterranean and played into a political standoff in Libya between the GNU in Tripoli, in western Libya, and an eastern-based parliament which rejects its legitimacy.
Turkey sent military aid in 2019 to help the Tripoli government ward off an assault on the capital by Egypt-backed eastern forces in the civil war.
Later that year, Ankara and Tripoli struck a deal to establish a maritime boundary in eastern Mediterranean waters also disputed by Egypt and Turkey's historic rival Greece, prompting both those countries to reject the agreement.
The GNU was installed in early 2021 through a U.N.-backed peace process and was initially supported by the eastern-based parliament. (Reporting by Huseyin Hayatsever and Ali Kucukgocmen in Ankara; Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli, Editing by Nick Macfie)