Turkey says forces loyal to Libya’s renegade General Khalifa Haftar need to pull out of the strategic city of Sirte for a lasting ceasefire, denouncing France for “jeopardizing” NATO’s security by supporting the strongman.
Presidential Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin made the remarks on Saturday, reiterating that Ankara fully supports Libya’s UN-backed government and that Sirte and al-Jufra should be cleared of the presence of Haftar’s forces for a “sustainable ceasefire.”
Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA), and another group under Haftar’s command and based in the eastern city of Tobruk, which is supported militarily by forces loyal to him and is collectively known as the Libyan National Army (LNA).
The strongman, supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the GNA, in April last year. His forces, however, failed to advance past the city’s outskirts. Early this month, they even lost those areas to the advancing GNA forces.
Turkey has been of significant help to the Tripoli-based government in its defense against the LNA by sending sophisticated drones and air defense systems, and also dispatching Ankara-backed militants from Syria there. The latter move has drawn criticism from some regional countries and international organizations, including the Arab League.
Multiple international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides in Libya have failed.
“This is the position of the GNA and we support it because right now the Haftar forces are using strategic locations as their launching pad against the legitimate government,” said Kalin on Saturday, adding that Haftar’s forces are also “using these places to use Libyan oil resources to finance their war.”
Turkey’s Presidential Spokesman also warned against a rushed truce, saying such a “premature ceasefire will not lead to what we want to achieve for all Libyans there.”
Elsewhere in his remarks, Kalin lambasted France for “jeopardizing” NATO’s security by supporting Haftar. Both Turkey and France are member states of the Western military alliance.
“In Libya we are supporting the legitimate government and the French government is supporting an illegitimate warlord and jeopardizing NATO security, Mediterranean security, North African security and Libya's political stability.”
On Wednesday, a high-level Turkish delegation, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Kalin, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak and National Intelligence Organization head Hakan Fidan paid a visit to Tripoli on an unannounced trip.
According to Turkey’s top diplomat, the visit pursued a clear purpose and that is “to strongly reiterate that Turkey stands with Libya.”
On Friday, GNA’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Taher Siala announced that the government would boycott talks on the Libyan conflict to be held by the Arab League foreign ministers next week.
The talks, scheduled to be held via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic, have been called for by Egypt, a key supporter of Haftar.
Siala told the Arab League’s executive council that the planned meeting would “merely deepen the rift” between Arab governments on the conflict.
The GNA’s top diplomat complained that there had been no prior consultation with his government, even though the meeting concerned Libya. He also protested that the virtual format of the meeting was not suitable for tackling the thorny issues involved.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster, and later killing, of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
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