Merkel, Erdoğan agree to bolster U.N. peace process for Libya
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have agreed to bolster the United Nations-led peace process in Libya, Reuters said citing a statement by Merkel’s spokesman on Tuesday.
The two leaders spoke via video call to discuss the conflict in Libya and the situation in the eastern Mediterranean where tensions are rising over hydrocarbon exploration rights.
Turkey is backing Libya’s U.N.- recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in its conflict with the rebel General Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, among others.
France, Germany’s closest European ally, on Monday criticised Turkey’s increasingly “aggressive” role in Libya.
France said it wants talks with NATO allies to discuss Turkey’s intervention in Libya, which it says has thwarted efforts to secure a ceasefire between GNA and LNA.
“These interferences are becoming very problematic and, despite our efforts, the situation is getting bogged down. This increasingly aggressive posture is not acceptable,” a French presidential official told Reuters. “Turkey is supposed to be a NATO partner, so this cannot continue.”
Meanwhile, state-run TRT World slammed France for its hypocrisy in allegedly supplying weapons and offering logistical support to Haftar's forces dating back to 2015.
TRT World quoted Ankara-based Middle East and North Africa analyst, Ali Bakeer, as saying that: "France’s position vis-à-vis Turkey on Libya stems from its colonial past & seeing Africa as its backyard".
"If Paris wants to complain to NATO, it will be judged because France is on the same pro- Haftar team with Russia".
Turkey stepped up its own military support to the GNA in December 2019, sending drones and other military hardware to Libya, along with thousands of Syrian mercenaries, many of whom have links to Islamist militant groups.
The GNA has won a string of major victories in the past month, and has now recaptured almost all the territories Haftar’s forces had previously taken in his bid to capture Tripoli, which he launched in April 2019.
Turkish media reported last week that Turkey plans to use two Libyan military bases, a naval base in Misrata and the recently recaptured al-Watiya airport, for a longer-term presence in the North African country.
Libya’s warring sides resumed U.N-led talks last week to negotiate a ceasefire, meeting separately with negotiators, Reuters reported.
The meetings are under the auspices of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) - that is comprised of ten military leaders, with five representing the LNA and five from the GNA - that started at the end of February, with two rounds of negotiations taking place before they stopped in March.
But the Turkish-backed GNA have continued to advance this week. On Tuesday, state-run Anadolu news agency reported that GNA forces were just 50 km away from the strategically-important city of Sirte.