Trump Urges Libya De-escalation in Call With Erdogan, White House Says

Turkey backs Libya's internationally recognized government, whose forces' recent surge has put pressure on Russia-backed rival commander

Reuters
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A fighter loyal to Libya's U.N.-recognized government stands next to a destroyed car following in Tripoli on May 9, 2020.
A fighter loyal to Libya's U.N.-recognized government stands next to a destroyed car following in Tripoli on May 9, 2020. Credit: Mahmud TURKIA / AFP
Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump called for a "rapid de-escalation" of the Libyan conflict on a call with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, the White House said, after recent gains by forces backed by Turkey prompted threats of retaliation.

Ankara said the NATO allies agreed to continue pursuing stability in the eastern Mediterranean region, including in Syria, while a spokesman for Erdogan said the international community must stand with Turkey in the Libyan conflict.

Turkey backs Libya's internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which has made significant military gains in recent weeks in battles with the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Hifter.

With Turkish help, the GNA has seized a string of towns, captured a strategic air base and destroyed several of the LNA's Russian-made air defense systems.

The surge has put pressure Hifter's 13-month campaign to seize the capital Tripoli and has squeezed his foreign backers Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement: "President Trump reiterated concern over worsening foreign interference in Libya and the need for rapid de-escalation."

As the LNA has promised to respond with a massive air campaign, diplomats have warned of the risk of a new round of escalation with the warring sides' external backers pouring in new weaponry.

Turkey "will not bow to threats by Hifter or anyone else," Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said separately in an interview on NTV.

"The international community must take a stand against Hifter. We need to go back to the table for a political solution as soon as possible," Kalin said.

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