Erdogan, Putin Call for Cease-fire in Libya by End of Week

Dueling governments have plunged the divided country into chaos and split international partners ■ Turkey to deploy troops to support government in Tripoli

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Vladimir Putin (L) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speak at the inauguration ceremony of gas pipeline "TurkStream," Istanbul, January 8, 2020
Vladimir Putin (L) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) speak at the inauguration ceremony of gas pipeline "TurkStream," Istanbul, January 8, 2020Credit: AFP

The Turkish and Russian presidents on Wednesday called for a cease-fire in Libya, starting midnight January 12, their foreign ministers said.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov announced the call to journalists in Istanbul.

Turkey is supporting the embattled U.N.-recognized government in Tripoli and has begun sending Turkish soldiers for training and coordination, while Russia has backed the rival eastern-based forces of General Khalifa Haftar.

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin in a joint statement said they were committed to Libya’s “sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity,” according to the official Anadolu news agency.

The Libyan prime minister traveled to Brussels on Wednesday to hold talks with European officials on the conflict in the north African country.

A day after the EU top diplomat and the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy condemned Turkey’s plans to deploy troops to his country, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj met with EU Council president Charles Michel. He was also scheduled to discuss the crisis with European Parliament president David Sassoli.

Libya is currently governed by dueling authorities, in the east and the west, each relying on different militias. The east-based government is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. The western, Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

Sarraj's government has faced an offensive by rival eastern forces loyal to commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the fighting has threatened to plunge Libya into violent chaos rivaling the 2011 conflict that ousted and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said on Wednesday that the situation in Libya “is very dangerous" and “we are maybe facing a watershed point." Borrell is also planning to meet with Sarraj to analyze the current situation.

Turkey’s parliament authorized the deployment of troops to Libya last Thursday, following a separate deal on sending military experts and weapons signed into law in December.

In a period of intense diplomatic activity at EU level, Michel, will travel to Turkey on Saturday for a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to reiterate the EU's message of de-escalation. Michel will then make a stop in Cairo to discuss the crisis with Egypt president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

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