Turkey did its part, ball now in Moscow’s court, Erdoğan says

Turkey did its part, ball now in Moscow’s court, Erdoğan says

ANKARA/MOSCOW
Turkey did its part, ball now in Moscow’s court, Erdoğan says

Turkey has done its part in reaching an agreement in Moscow between warring sides in Libya and the rest is now under Russia’s responsibility, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Jan. 14.

“We did our duty, the rest is with Mr. Putin and his team. We never not keep our promise,” Erdoğan said, speaking to his party members.

Erdoğan, who first brokered the Libya truce deal with President Vladimir Putin of Russia last week, warned he would “teach a lesson” to Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar if his forces resumed fighting.

Haftar had “run away” from Moscow after the talks, Erdoğan said.

“The putschist Haftar did not sign the ceasefire. He first said yes, but later, unfortunately, he had run away from Moscow, he fled Moscow,” he said.

Erdoğan said he finds the talks in Moscow were positive as they “showed the true face of the putschist Haftar” to the international community.

The president said the issue would now be discussed at talks in Berlin on Jan. 19 to be attended by European, North African and Middle Eastern countries as well as the U.N., EU, Africa Union and Arab League.

“It is our duty to protect our kin in Libya,” he added, saying that Turkey had deep historical and social ties with the North African country and that Haftar would have taken over the entire nation if Ankara had not intervened.

Turkey will keep its presence in the North African country as needed, he added.

Turkey has no plans for adventurism in Syria, Libya, or the Mediterranean, Erdoğan said. “Most particularly, we do not have any imperial ambitions... We only aim to protect the rights and future of ourselves and our brothers,” he said.

Elaborating on the Syrian crisis, Erdoğan said Turkey is resolved to stop Bashar al-Assad regime’s attempts to violate a ceasefire in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib in Syria.

“We are determined to stop the regime’s attempts to violate the ceasefire — ourselves if needed. This is no joke. Everybody should see and accept that Turkey definitely does what it says,” he stated.

Noting that previous ceasefires in the Idlib province were broken by the regime, he said: “This time, the situation is different.”

MHP voices support for government’s Libya policy
MHP voices support for government’s Libya policy

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Jan. 14 that Haftar’s decision to not sign a ceasefire agreement with the internationally recognized government shows who wants war and who wants peace in the country.

"Turkey did and will do its part for a cease-fire and peace in Libya under the leadership of our president," Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Ankara.

“But in the current context, it is clear who wants peace or war, who wants or doesn't want to forge unity in Libya.”

Haftar had initially asked for until Jan. 14 morning to make up his mind on the deal after indirect talks with his rival, Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads Libya’s Tripoli-based internationally recognized government, Turkey’s foreign minister said.

Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also slammed Haftar's decision to not sign the ceasefire agreement. 

"We will certainly ensure a ceasefire. We will show our efforts to provide peace both in Libya and Idlib [Syria] with a political solution. Our hope is to stop the bloodshed," he said. 

Akar stressed that Turkey supported cease-fires in the two region agreed upon last week between Ankara and Moscow, adding that they mostly held.

Libya's warring leaders made some progress at indirect peace talks in Moscow on Jan. 13 but failed to agree on an open-ended ceasefire to end a nine-month war over the capital Tripoli.    

In talks that lasted about eight hours, mediators Russia and Turkey urged the rivals to sign a binding truce and pave the way for a settlement that would stabilize the North African country mired in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. 

Haftar left Moscow without signing a ceasefire agreement drafted at talks in Russia on Jan. 13, the TASS news agency cited the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying on Jan. 14.

Sarraj, whose forces have struggled to halt an assault on Tripoli by Haftar's LNA, signed the ceasefire agreement after talks that lasted about eight hours, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Jan. 13   

Haftar declined to sign the ceasefire deal because it did not include a deadline for disbanding government forces, the Interfax news agency cited a Libyan military source as saying.    

In a sign the LNA might continue its offensive, it said on an official website that it was "ready and determined" to achieve victory. Pro-LNA social media posts have called to stage a rally to support Haftar on Jan. 14in the main eastern city of Benghazi.    

His failure to sign the agreement at talks mediated by Turkey and Russia may complicate a diplomatic effort to stabilize the situation in Libya which has been mired in chaos since the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011.

Sarraj, whose forces have struggled to halt an assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s LNA, signed the ceasefire agreement after talks that lasted about eight hours, Lavrov said on Jan. 13.

Sarraj refuses to engage with Haftar

Russia's TASS news agency reported that Sarraj had refused to engage in direct talks with Haftar, forcing Russian and Turkish diplomats to act as go-betweens.   

The two men last met in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 before talks broke down over a power-sharing deal and Haftar moved his troops on Tripoli in April, expanding his control beyond the east and south.   

The Turkish-Russian, which involved laborious indirect contacts between the two Libyan delegations, is the latest attempt to end chaos in the oil-producing country.

Speaking alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Ankara, Erdoğan said on Jan. 13 his country was working to ensure a ceasefire in Libya becomes permanent. 

He said he hoped the Moscow talks would form the basis of discussions at a summit in Berlin on Jan. 19, which he said he would attend with Conte and Russian President Putin.   

Germany to host Libya peace conference in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is inviting world powers to a summit in Berlin on Jan. 19 to discuss efforts to broker peace in Libya.

Merkel's office said in a statement on Jan. 14 that the German leader had decided to host the meeting after consulting with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Germany has invited al-Sarraj and Haftar to the Jan. 19 meeting.

Officials from the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, United Arab Emirates, Turkey as well as several African and Arab countries are also invited.

Haftar taking 2 days to talk Libya truce with tribes

Haftar needs two days to consult with local Libyan tribes for their approval, said Russia on Jan. 14.

"The commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Marshal Khalifa Haftar, welcomed the final [cease-fire] statement but is taking two days to discuss the document with the leaders of the LNA-supporting tribes before signing it," Russia's Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Haftar mobilizes forces near Tripoli: Libyan source

Haftar was amassing forces near Tripoli on Jan. 14 in preparation for resuming attacks on the Libyan capital, a military source told Tukey's state-run Anadolu Agency.

"Emirati armored vehicles and cannons were spotted advancing to the town of Tarhunah, southeast of Tripoli," the source with the U.N.-recognized government said.

The move came hours after Haftar left Russia without signing a cease-fire deal with al-Sarraj.

"Support for Haftar's forces has been ongoing despite the truce, which proves that he wanted the cease-fire to reorganize his militia," the source said, requesting anonymity.

UN urges Libyan rivals to abide by cease-fire

Meanwhile, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (U.N.SMIL) called on warring sides in the country to continue to abide by the cease-fire announced recently.

"For the sake of civilians in Tripoli, hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes and 116,000 children unable to attend their classrooms, the United Nations urges the parties to continue to abide by the declared ceasefire," U.N.SMIL said on Twitter.

U.N.SMIL urged the warring sides "to give ongoing diplomatic efforts an opportunity to reach a permanent cessation of military operations and a return to the political process".

The Tripoli war has wrecked Libya's economy and risks disrupting oil production and triggering flows of African migrants trying to reach Europe by boats with the help of smugglers exploiting the chaos.   

Turkey backs Sarraj, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside Haftar’s LNA forces, which are also backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.