Foreign Minister Evarist Bartolo met his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Ankara on Tuesday, with the situation in Libya a key topic during discussions.
Turkey is one of the leading supporters of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in the ongoing Libyan civil war, with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives – and the Libyan National Army under the command of Marshal Khalifa Haftar – its key rival. A number of local factions are also involved in the conflict, with their allegiances to the two main rivals often shifting as the conflict unfolds.
With Turkey’s help, the GNA is currently on the offensive, having driven off Haftar’s forces far from Tripoli, but just this week, the House of Representatives have invited neighbouring Egypt to intervene in the conflict. The front-line is now on the outskirts of the central coastal city of Sirte, whose capture by the GNA had been declared to be a red line by Egypt last month.
Malta joins the United Nations in recognising the GNA as the legitimate Libyan government, though it ultimately augurs for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
‘No alternative’ to peaceful solution
In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said that Bartolo and Çavuşoğlu exchanged views on the impact of the unfolding scenario on migration and the need for more concerted efforts to disrupt the business model of human smugglers and traffickers.
Bartolo insisted that there was no alternative to a peaceful resolution of the civil war, and augured that the parties involved will agree to a lasting ceasefire. As he has often done, the minister stressed that the solution to the Libyan conflict should be led by Libyans and should preserve a single and united Libya.
The minister also said that peace and stability in Libya would translate into peace and security in the Mediterranean as well as in Europe. He has long insisted that the EU should play a more active role, and emphasised the urgency of its need to facilitate and provide active support to the resolution of the conflict.
During the visit the two sides also sought to explore areas of possible bilateral cooperation, including trade, investment, education, culture, health, and English language learning. The two countries also signed an agreement enabling the spouses of diplomats serving in each other’s country to engage in paid employment.
The ministry also announced that during the visit, Bartolo laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first President of Turkey, considered to be the founding father of the modern secular state.
Critics often accuse the present Turkish government, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of trying to erase Atatürk’s legacy, not least through its recent decision to convert the historic Church of Hagia Sophia to a mosque. The 6th century cathedral had originally been transformed into a mosque when the Ottoman Empire conquered what is now Istanbul in 1453, but was reopened as a museum under Atatürk’s rule.