By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL- Turkey’s Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday, that Turkey and Russia agreed to work towards a political solution in Libya. This decision comes after a two-day visit by a Turkish delegation to Moscow to discuss the crisis in Libya. The delegation led by Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onala, emphasized the need to define methods to facilitate the demilitarization process in various regions throughout Libya. Also discussed was the evacuation of all foreign fighters with the goal of achieving a permanent and sustainable ceasefire. Onala commented: “Turkey had declared its support during the meetings for the efforts of the UN-led 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) among the Libyan sides.” He added that Turkey is putting great importance on beginning inclusive intra-Libyan political dialogue under UN auspices and maintaining resolutions made at the Berlin Conference.
Meanwhile, last Thursday, UK Ambassador Nicholas Hopton spoke to Government of National Accord (GNA) leader, Fayez al-Sarraj via phone, according to Libyan government officials. Hopton said the UK supports a political solution in Libya. Hopton and al-Sarraj discussed current developments in Libya with an eye toward expanding bilateral relations. Also, last week, the GNA army indicated that militias loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar had violated the ceasefire that began on August 21. This was not the first time Haftar violated a ceasefire. During the Berlin Conference as Turkey and Russia had declared a ceasefire, Haftar was violating it.
In the meantime, GNA leader al-Sarraj and Aquila Saleh head of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives agreed to a ceasefire on the condition that all foreign mercenaries and parties withdraw from Libya. The joint ceasefire agreement was lauded by the international community as well as the United Nations Support Mission In Libya (UNSMI). Both leaders issued joint statements related commonalities about parliamentary and presidential elections set to take place next March.
Now, a new twist in the Libya crisis has the U.S. taking a lead role in promoting a more stable policy for Libya that experts view as a decided shift in strategy and policy for the Trump administration who previously attempted to encourage al-Sarraj and Haftar to meet at the negotiating table. It was Haftar’s previous ceasefire violations that caused al-Sarraj to refuse any negotiations with him. Once again, Haftar is at the center of controversy. How to deal with the renegade and warlord will weigh heavily on the minds of officials and negotiators in any steps toward a political solution. It appears up to Turkey and Russia to set the stage to reach a political solution moving forward. How that plays out will be will be anyone’s guess.