Erdogan Meets With Libyan PM, Discusses 'Crisis in Libya' in Phone Call With Putin

Erdogan pledges support for Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj's 'legitimate' government following tensions between Ankara and forces loyal to a rival Libyan authority

File photo: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, July 2, 2019.
Mark Schiefelbein/Pool via REUTERS

Turkey's president has met with the head of Libya's UN-recognized government, following heightened tensions between Turkey and forces loyal to a rival Libyan authority.

In a statement by his office Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his support for Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj's "legitimate" government, the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

He called on the forces of Khalifa Hifter to cease their attacks.

Hifter's self-styled Libyan National Arm (LNA), which controls much of eastern and southern Libya, said Turkish vessels and interests are now targets, after accusing Turkey of helping rival militias. Six Turkish nationals were freed this week after Turkey threatened action.

Fighters aligned with the government in Tripoli received Turkish-made armored vehicles in May.

The statement said Erdogan and Sarraj discussed bilateral relations, developments in Libya and regional issues.

Also Saturday, Erdogan discussed the ongoing conflict in Libya with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, state news agency Anadolu said, without giving further details.

Erdogan and Putin spoke by phone and discussed the "crisis in Libya and regional issues," Anadolu said. The report would not comment on the nature of the conversation.

The phone talk comes hours after Erdogan met Serraj in Istanbul.

The self-styled LNA, which accuses Turkey of providing military support to the GNA, last week announced a ban on flights between Libya and Turkey. 

It said Turkish ships and aircraft were "legitimate targets" for its forces.

Hifter is thought to be receiving support from Russia while Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are believed to be his main allies.

The Serraj government is thought to be supported by Qatar and Turkey.

Hifter had ordered his forces to capture the capital in April and violence has escalated since with neither side able to make substantial progress.

The GNA blamed Hifter for an airstrike on a detention centre near Tripoli that left scores of people dead or injured on Wednesday.