Turkey urges UN to be more active in Libya amid Haftar offensive

Turkey urges UN to be more active in Libya amid Haftar offensive

Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARA
Turkey urges UN to be more active in Libya amid Haftar offensive

Turkey has urged U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to be more active in Libya by boosting efforts for a political solution and cease-fire, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has revealed, reiterating that the continued deadly offensive by General Khalifa Haftar’s forces risks deeper chaos and further disintegration in the country.

“Everybody should understand this: There will be no winner of this civil war in Libya. If we cannot stop the clashes, this war may last long,” Çavuşoğlu told Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets on Jan. 6. He also informed that the U.N. chief was also on the same page as him over the need for a political solution to the conflict.

Çavuşoğlu expressed his opinions to Guterres during a phone conversation late Jan. 5, when the two men discussed recent developments in the Middle East and Libya amid Turkey’s preparations to deploy troops to the North African country.

Turkish FM held talks on killing of Soleimani
Turkish FM held talks on killing of Soleimani

The Turkish foreign minister has stressed on an aerial deadly attack by Haftar forces against a military school in the southern skirts of Tripoli that claimed the lives of at least 40 students and called on the U.N. chief to take action.

“This kind of attack indicates that Haftar and his supporters are not in favor of peace and a political process but of a military solution,” he said.

To reach a political solution requires the involvement of the U.N. secretary-general, as the efforts of the special representative alone would not yield the demanded results, Çavuşoğlu stressed, underlining the need for the protection of the UN-backed Tripoli government against the Haftar forces.

Haftar has superiority in terms of air forces but balance is being observed as for the ground forces, Çavuşoğlu said, recalling that Tripoli repelled several attacks by the rebels. “Attacks by Haftar forces could lead to the disintegration of Libya. And if they enter Tripoli, I am afraid many more people can be killed,” the minister said.

Turkey sends troops for peace

Turkey has made two important memoranda of understandings with Libya, one on the delimitation of the maritime jurisdiction areas in the Mediterranean and the other one on security and defense cooperation, Çavuşoğlu said, describing the latter as an important contribution to the international efforts for peace and stability in the war-torn country.

Turkey has already deployed a small number of military advisors, technicians, and trainers as part of the motion adopted by the Turkish Parliament, Çavuşoğlu said, denying reports that some members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have also been sent to Libya to fight against Haftar forces.

On the maritime deal, Çavuşoğlu said the memorandum of understanding will be registered at the U.N. in four to six months and those who want to build a pipeline passing through the Turkish maritime jurisdiction zone should seek the consent of the Turkish government.

Upon a question, Çavuşoğlu said it seems unrealistic to pass a resolution for the establishment and deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force to Libya due to serious disagreements between the permanent members.

He said he will travel to Algeria on Jan. 7 to discuss what the two countries could do for the stability and peace of Libya. “The inclusion of Algeria and Tunisia as well as Qatar to the political efforts is important,” he said.

A serious risk for Middle East

Çavuşoğlu has described the killing of Qasem Soleimani, a senior Iranian commander, by the United States as a major risk for regional stability and peace and reiterated Ankara’s efforts to de-escalate tension through dialogue.

“We will continue to exert efforts with other countries for the resolution of this problem or reducing the tension in the coming days,” Çavuşoğlu said, recalling ongoing phone diplomacy by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and himself.
It’s important that Iran and the U.S. engage direct talks as suggested by Washington although Tehran says lifting sanctions is the pre-condition before talks, he suggested. “Necessary contributions should be made for direct contact. We will intensify our efforts to this end under the leadership of our president.”

The foreign minister has drawn the attention to the fact that the Iranian-American conflict is taking place on the territories of Iraq, a country far from stability.

“Everybody’s concern is that Iraq should not turn into a battlefield for the third parties. This is a serious risk for Iraq and our region,” the minister said, calling on all parties to put in efforts to reduce the violence.

The killing of Soleimani would increase the influence of the radical groups against the moderate ones in Iran and that was a concern Turkey has also shared with other countries, including the U.S., Çavuşoğlu stated.

Future ties with Egypt and Israel

On a question on whether 2020 would mark a new opening in ties with Egypt, Syria, and Israel, the countries with which Turkey has had no contact for some time, he said ties with Syria should wait for the conclusion of the political process although the two states’ intelligences do contact from time to time on security and anti-terror issues.

About Egypt, Çavuşoğlu recalled that he is in talks with his counterpart Samih Shukri and the two exchanged views during the latest U.N. General Assembly meetings in New York in September. “Although we don’t find the direction of Egypt right, talks on our level do continue. The conditions [for the reconciliation of ties] Egypt bring to the fore are unacceptable for us. For example, they don’t want our president to comment on the death of [former Egyptian President Mohammed] Morsi. But this is an issue on which the U.N. special rapporteur has also talked with not only our president. They also want that Turkey should not comment when there is a violation [of human rights] in Egypt. There is no such world,” he said.

On Israel, the minister cited uncertainty in terms of the formation of its new government. “It seems it’s impossible for us to come to a point with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. But why not if a new government would be established and that the government would adopt a positive stance on issues concerning Palestine and Jerusalem?” Çavuşoğlu stated.

Ankara opposes mercenaries in Libya

Çavuşoğlu, during a separate news conference on Jan. 6, said that Ankara opposes mercenaries coming to Libya as they will deter efforts to maintain peace and stability.

"We are against mercenaries coming to Libya. We think mercenaries cannot bring peace and stability,” Çavuşoğlu told a joint news conference with South Sudan’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Awut Deng Acuil, following their bilateral meeting in the capital Ankara.

“However, our aim is to establish a cease-fire as soon as possible and to contribute to the revival of the political process and to accelerate it,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that the only means of solution is a political one.

He also emphasized that Turkey supports the dialogue between Sudan and South Sudan where they went through a similar process.