Turkey, Russia hold talks on truce parameters in Libya
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA
The Russian delegation was set to meet with Turkish officials chaired by Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Önal after the Daily News went to press.
The delegation will primarily discuss a possible ceasefire in Libya, but regional issues such as Syria will also be on the agenda, a Turkish official told the Hürriyet Daily News prior to the meetings.
Turkey supports Fayez al-Sarraj’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), whose forces recently repelled an assault on Tripoli by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Turkey and Russia hold different positions on the parameters of a ceasefire in the war-torn country. Russia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, backs the LNA.
Ankara believes a ceasefire should be part of a broader agreement to ensure that it will not be broken by the LNA again. The GNA wants the LNA to withdraw from cities it seized in an April 2019 offensive, as well as the disarmament of militias fighting against the Tripoli government.
The talks will focus on the strategic city of Sirte and the Jufra area, as the GNA insists that the LNA should retreat from these areas before it agrees to a ceasefire, the official said, emphasizing that everybody should go back to their positions as per the 2015 Skhirat agreement.
Sirte, which is around 450 kilometers (280 miles) east of Tripoli, is the last major settlement before the traditional boundary between Libya’s west and east. Beyond Sirte lies the prize of Libya’s main oil export ports, the LNA’s most important strategic asset.
In recent weeks, LNA forces have lost crucial ground to GNA forces, which are backed by Turkey.
A planned visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Turkey was postponed in June due to disagreements over how to establish a ceasefire in the North African country.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s parliament on July 20 authorized the deployment of troops outside the country after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi threatened military action against Turkish-backed forces in Libya.
The move could bring Egypt and Turkey, who support rival sides in Libya’s proxy war, into direct confrontation.
The Egyptian House of Representatives said after a closed-door session that armed forces could be deployed on combat missions outside Egypt’s borders to fight “criminal militias” and “foreign terrorist groups” on a “western front,” but did name Libya directly. It said the troops would be defending Egypt’s national security.
U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with el-Sissi on July 20 before the Egyptian parliament made its decision, as well as with French President Emmanuel Macron.