Too early to say that ceasefire in Libya has collapsed – Turkish Minister

Updated 11:39 AM
A Libyan flag flutters atop the Libyan Consulate in Athens, Greece, December 6, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said on Wednesday it was too early to say that a ceasefire in Libya had collapsed after Khalifa Haftar, commander of eastern Libyan forces, failed to sign a binding truce at talks this week.

Turkey, which supports the internationally recognised government in Tripoli which is opposed to Haftar, has sent a training and cooperation team which is now active in Libya, Akar told reporters at a briefing in Ankara.

The Turkish Daily Sabah reports that speaker of pro-Haftar, Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh declared an end to cease-fire in Libya late Wednesday. “The war will continue,” he added during a live broadcast of Al-Ghad television.

Saleh also added that Turkey’s efforts prevented forces of warlord Khalifa Haftar from taking control of the nation’s capital Tripoli, which is run by UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Saleh’s statement came as the warring sides had agreed for a truce brokered by Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Vladimir Putin of Russia. The negotiations in Moscow failed early Tuesday as Haftar abruptly left the meeting.

Sarraj on Monday called on Libyans to “turn the page on the past, reject discord and to close ranks to move towards stability and peace.”

Now all eyes will be on a German-led push to resolve the conflict in Libya should see  Haftar and the leader of the UN-backed government, Fayez al-Sarraj, attend a conference in Berlin this Sunday.

They are to be joined by envoys from the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, Italy, the EU and the UN. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also extended an invitation to the African Union, the Arab League, as well the Republic of Congo, Algeria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

International observers worry that the fighting in Libya could escalate to the level of the catastrophic civil war in Syria, with numerous regional players protecting conflicting interests in the oil-rich North African country. Haftar is believed to enjoy at least some level of support from France, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Russian mercenaries are reportedly fighting alongside his troops.

In turn, Turkey has recently deployed troops to Libya to protect the Tripoli government. Qatar and Italy are also seen as allies of the GNA.