ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Wednesday it was too early to say whether a ceasefire in Libya had collapsed after Khalifa Haftar, commander of eastern Libyan forces, failed to sign a binding truce accord at talks this week.
FILE PHOTO: Turkey’s Defence Minister Hulusi Akar arrives for a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (not pictured) as part of a NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium October 25, 2019. Virginia Mayo/Pool via REUTERS
Russo-Turkish talks in Moscow have aimed to halt Haftar’s nine-month campaign to seize the Libyan capital Tripoli from forces aligned with the internationally recognized government of Fayez al-Serraj.
Serraj, whose embattled government has struggled to repel the nine-month campaign, signed the truce proposal but Haftar left Moscow without adding his signature. He has not commented since then whether he will sign it or not.
Since veteran dictator Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a 2011 uprising, the North African country has been in turmoil, with outside powers providing support to rival factions.
Turkey backs Serraj’s government, while Haftar has received support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Russian mercenaries.
“We cannot say that the ceasefire has collapsed, it’s much too early for such an interpretation,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in Ankara. He added that Ankara was awaiting the outcome of diplomacy by Moscow, which has relations with Serraj even as it has given support to Haftar.
Turkey has sent a training and cooperation team which is now active in Libya, Akar said. Turkey committed to military support for the Tripoli government in December after the arrival of Russian mercenaries helped Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA) make some small gains along the Tripoli frontline.
President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday Turkey would “teach a lesson” to Haftar if his attacks on the Tripoli-based government continued.
On Sunday, Germany will host a summit on Libya involving the rival camps, their main foreign backers and representatives from the United Nations, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, Turkey and Italy. Haftar and Serraj have also been invited but it is unclear whether they will come, a German government spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The nine-month war over Tripoli is just the latest bout of chaos in Libya, an OPEC oil exporter that has become a hub for human traffickers to ship migrants by boats to Italy, while Islamist militants have exploited the widespread disorder.
The conflict also risks disrupting oil production, the state oil firm has warned.
Reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Dominic Evans and Mark Heinrich