By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Italy’s prime minister met with warlord Khalifa Haftar in Rome two days ago to discuss a ceasefire. Haftar insists his military operation will continue and refused to participate in a ceasefire.
Haftar’s ultimate aim is to capture Libya’s capital Tripoli, which he has so far been unsuccessful in doing. On Wednesday, Turkey and Russia in a joint statement, called for a ceasefire at midnight on January 12 but without Haftar agreeing to it, a ceasefire is not possible.
Turkey’s President Erdogan reiterated that he is determined to resolve what he deemed the injustice and persecution taking place in Libya. Erdogan had expressed several weeks ago that Turkey recognizes the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and was ready to do everything to assist the GNA in protecting Tripoli.
On January 2, Turkish parliament passed a motion in favor of sending military assistance to Libya after Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj made a formal request. Erdogan had announced that the only legitimate government is the GNA and that the countries supporting Haftar must be held accountable for their role in the conflict.
Meanwhile, France, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus declared “null and void” agreements between Turkey and Libya related to rights over the eastern Mediterranean and military aid to Libya. A statement was issued by the foreign ministers of the four nations who met in Cairo to discuss the situation. They all agreed that the agreements between Turkey and Libya undercut regional stability. The four nations had also slammed Turkey’s agreement on military aid to Libya in a joint statement earlier this week, labeling it a “dangerous escalation.”
On Wednesday, Erdogan announced that Turkey sent troops to Libya to support the GNA in a non-fighting capacity to counter military offensives by Haftar who is receiving military support and advanced weapons technology from the UAE, Russia, Egypt, Jordan and France. In the last several days Haftar has attacked a military school dormitory and captured the seaside town of Sirte, in a bid to eventually take Tripoli.
The EU High Representative and Foreign Affairs Policy Chief, Josep Borrell spoke out against Turkey providing military assistance – calling the move ‘foreign interference.’ Borrell added that it’s crucial for all sides to honor the UN arms embargo and expressed that the EU outright rejects Turkey’s military aid to Libya.
The fact is that Haftar is using ‘foreign interference’ to conduct deadly military strikes on innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure that has killed and injured thousands.
On Thursday, Erdogan said Turkey would defend it’s rights and interests, indicating that the country’s future and security do not just reside within the borders of Turkey. In reference to Libya, Erdogan stated: “We are in these lands (Libya), where our ancestors made history because we were invited there to resolve injustice and persecution.”
The Turkish president added that his country will give “The best response” to those who refuse to comprehend Turkey’s security also exists beyond its borders and condemned criticism about its agreements with Libya.
The Turkish government made it clear that it’s providing troops for military training and assistance not to engage in the ongoing conflict.
Three days ago, Libya ‘s Prime Minister Sarraj was invited to Brussels for talks with EU leaders and EU High Representative and Foreign Affairs Policy Chief Josep Borrell. EU leaders and Borrell are extremely concerned about the conflict escalating further. Borrell condemned Haftar’s recent attack on a military school south of Tripoli.
Libya’s prime minister also met with EU Council President Charles Michel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas who spoke to reporters: “We want to prevent Libya from becoming the scene of a proxy war or Libya becoming a second Syria.”
In addition, earlier this week, Borrell called for a diplomatic solution in Libya after a meeting with foreign ministers from France, Italy, Germany and the UK, stating : “The EU doesn’t use force, we are asking for diplomatic solutions.”
In a statement released after the meeting, EU leaders expressed hope that the Berlin Process talks sponsored by the United Nations will be able to work up a solid plan to end the conflict.
Germany’s Maas said Sarraj gave his full support to the Berlin process and committed to “push ahead with what is to be agreed there – both a ceasefire and an arms embargo with the neighboring States, but also, above all, the political process under the aegis of the United Nations.”
Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte met Haftar in Rome for talks as part of the EU process to accelerate finding a political solution to the conflict.
The date for the Berlin Conference hasn’t been specified but Maas indicated the conference would likely convene in coming weeks.
EU President Charles Michel is due in Turkey for talks this weekend.