The European Union’s top diplomat and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy condemned Turkey’s plans to send military experts and trainers to Libya, saying foreign interference exacerbated instability.
After postponing a trip to Tripoli over safety concerns, the ministers and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell held talks in Brussels to call for a ceasefire as Libya’s internationally recognised government struggled to fend off a military offensive on its power base in the capital.
“Continuing outside interference is fuelling the crisis,” the ministers and Borrell said in a joint statement after the meeting.
In remarks to reporters, Borrell said: “It is obvious this referred to the Turkish decision to intervene with troops in Libya, something we reject.”
Turkey will send military experts and technical teams to support Libya’s internationally recognised government, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday, after President Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish military units were moving to Tripoli.
Turkey is nominally a candidate to join the EU, though accession talks stalled due to disagreements over human rights, Cyprus and other issues.
The EU talks were to have taken place in Libya but the Tripoli government asked for postponement, according to two EU diplomats.
Europe and the United States face being sidelined in Libya by Turkey and Russia, which are taking a bigger role in the conflict there.
Turkey supports the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), while Russia backs eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces hold much of the country’s east and south including Benghazi. They are making a renewed attempt to take Tripoli.
“There is a proxy war under way. All interference has to stop. There are countries that interfere with civil war, turning it into a proxy war,” Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters in Brussels before travelling to Turkey to meet his Turkish counterpart Cavusoglu.
The EU hoped to send a diplomatic mission to Libya to train Libyan officials and build up institutions in support of the GNA, but that was deemed too dangerous at present, diplomats said.
Di Maio, along with the Egyptian, French, Greek and Cypriot foreign ministers, are due to discuss next steps in Cairo on the same day Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin inaugurate a natural gas pipeline between their countries via the Black Sea.