Turkey and Russia urged Libya’s warring parties to declare a ceasefire on Sunday as warring factions clashed and carried out air strikes in a conflict drawing increasing foreign involvement and concern.
Turkey backs Fayez al-Serraj’s Tripoli-based, internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and said it will send military advisers and possibly troops to reinforce its support, while Russian military contractors deployed alongside General Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
After talks between presidents Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in Istanbul, Turkey and Russia called jointly for an end to hostilities, normalisation of life in Tripoli and other cities, and UN-sponsored peace talks.
The conflict is undermining regional security and “triggering irregular migration, further spread of weapons, terrorism and other criminal activities including illicit trafficking,” their statement said.
Any ceasefire deal will be hard to enforce after an escalation in fighting around Tripoli and Sirte and given the fractious, loose nature of Libya’s military alliances.
The United Nations leads efforts to pave the way for a truce and political negotiations in Libya, a major oil and gas producer, with few signs of progress.
The GNA on Wednesday welcomed any “serious call” to return to political talks, without addressing the ceasefire call.
The United Nations welcomed recent ceasefire calls, including from Turkey and Russia and urged Libyan parties to respond positively.
Haftar’s LNA took control of Sirte in a rapid advance on Monday and seeks to consolidate gains.
An unusually heavy artillery bombardment could be heard around Mitiga airport in Tripoli, closed last week because of shelling and rocket fire.
PEACE PUSH UPENDED
Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival camps in Tripoli and the east, each with its own set of institutions, and Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli upended UN efforts to broker a political settlement.
Concerned regional powers stepped up intervention, with the LNA receiving support from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt.
In Cairo, the foreign ministers of France, Egypt, Greece and Cyprus stressed their opposition to Turkey’s decision on troop deployment to Libya and a maritime deal Turkey struck with the GNA in November Greece and Cyprus see as a threat to natural gas drilling rights.
“Libya cannot become a second Syria and we need rapidly to enter a political process, an agreement on an effective ceasefire and an arms embargo,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. He hoped a long-planned summit on Libya would be held in Berlin in the coming weeks.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte held talks with Haftar in Rome. Conte was due to see Serraj later, but the meeting was called off.
A government source said it appeared Serraj pulled out after being wrongly informed the Italians wanted him to see Haftar during the trip.