Turkey, Italy hope for ‘lasting’ truce in Libya
Foreign and defense ministers of Russia and Turkey met as part of an effort by Moscow and Ankara to sponsor Jan. 13's talks between rival parties in Libya in the Russian capital. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, Pool)
Talks between Libya's warring parties in Moscow, supported by Turkish and Russian officials, are going positively, President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Jan. 13, adding that Ankara was working to ensure the truce became permanent.
Turkey and Italy have been working together for a permanent ceasefire between Libya’s combating sides, the Turkish president said on Jan. 13.
“I wish to sign a Libya ceasefire agreement soon. We deem the efforts of Italy important. We have been making efforts for the ceasefire to be lasting,” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at the presidential complex in Ankara.
“I have just been informed that the negotiations [in Moscow] are continuing in a positive direction,” he added.
He also said that the two countries will be at the Berlin Process to find a durable solution to the Libya crisis.
The visiting prime minister also hoped that the ceasefire in Libya will pave way for an important opportunity.
“We, especially with Turkey, have been involved in the Berlin Conference under the auspices of the United Nations for a solution,” Conte said.
He also said that Italy will oppose any conditioning acts and interventions against the sovereignty of Libya.
“We have been looking at the situation in Syria and Iraq too. The Middle East problem blocks the whole world. It affects stability seriously. What we should do is to intensify diplomatic efforts,” added Conte.
Libya's rival leaders are holding peace talks in Moscow on Jan. 13 with Russia and Turkey urging the rivals to sign a binding truce to end a nine-month-old war and pave the way for a settlement that would stabilize the North African country.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in the conflict, are urging them to sign a binding truce to end a nine-month-old war and pave the way for a settlement.
The Russo-Turkish push, which brings together the Libyan leaders for the first time in almost a year, is the latest attempt to end the chaos that has engulfed the oil-producing country since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) faction which has been trying to conquer the capital Tripoli, and Fayez al-Serraj, who heads the rival Tripoli-based recognized government, were both in Moscow, Russian diplomats said.
Both men last met in Abu Dhabi in February last year 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 Moscow talks take place ahead of a summit in Berlin on Jan. 19 which is expected to bring together the foreign backers of both Libyan camps.
Turkey backs Haftar's rival, Serraj, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside Haftar's LNA forces, which are also backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan.
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.
The Moscow talks come after a ceasefire, initiated by Turkey and Russia, saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes on Jan. 13, though both factions accused each other of violating that truce as skirmishes continued around Tripoli.
Haftar's troops have not been able to breach Tripoli's defenses but have in recent weeks made some small progress with the help of the Russian mercenaries, residents say. That has pushed Turkey, which has business interests in the country, to deploy soldiers to Libya to help the embattled Tripoli government.
Russia and Turkey's foreign and defense ministers held talks on Libya on Jan. 13 morning and would later be joined by the two Libyan delegations, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said.
Italian Prime Minister flew to Ankara on Jan. 13 for talks on Libya with Erdoğan. Conte suffered a setback last week after Rome's own bid to play a central role in resolving Libya's conflict came off the rails.
Russia and Turkey have turned into major players in Libya, joining Arab countries such as Egypt or the UAE which have filled a void left by Western powers showing little interest in the OPEC producer since 2011.
Asked about Russian mercenaries, Putin said on Jan. 11 that any Russian citizens fighting in Libya were not representing the interests of the Russian state or receiving money from it.
During a visit to Moscow on Jan. 11, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin wanted to host Libyan peace talks to build on what she said she hoped would be successful joint efforts by Russia and Turkey to stop the conflict.
Germany plans to hold that summit on Jan. 19, two participants in the preparatory negotiations said on Jan. 13. The Turkish presidency said Erdoğan would come to Berlin for a one-day visit on Jan. 19, but gave no further details.