Greece weighs in on Libya solution with Haftar talks, veto threat

(Updates with comments from Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in sixth paragraph.)

Greece is weighing in on the Libyan peace process after failing to secure an invitation to a key conference in Germany between the country’s warring factions.

Greek officials are holding talks with General Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA), in Athens on Friday ahead of Sunday’s United Nations-sponsored negotiations in Berlin.

Athens will not accept any political solution for Libya unless a maritime accord between Libya and Turkey, which infringes on Greece’s borders, is annulled, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview with Alpha TV on Thursday.

Haftar met with Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias and is holding a later meeting with Mitsotakis in the Greek capital as countries including Germany, Turkey, Russia and the United States prepare for the meetings in Berlin, designed to put an end to the violent crisis in the North African country.

“Greece will never accept any political solution for Libya at the European Council which does not have as a precondition the annulment of the memorandum with Turkey,” Mitsotakis told Alpha TV, adding that Greece had been wrongly excluded from the negotiations.

Dendias said after the meeting with Haftar that Greece expects Germany to safeguard Europe's position during the Berlin conference, referring to its objections to the maritime accord. He urged Haftar to attend the peace talks with a constructive spirit aimed at securing peace. Greece was ready to help Libya transform into a modern democratic state, to contribute troops to help with security and to end mercenary involvement in the conflict, he said.

Libya has been split between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and the rival House of Representatives, which has been operating from the eastern city of Tobruk since 2014 and is backed by Haftar’s Libya National Army (LNA).

Turkey has sent military advisers and hundreds of fighters from Syria to support the U.N.-recognised government in Tripoli, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The United Nations has called on all foreign governments to end their unilateral interference in Libya's affairs.

Indirect talks between Sarraj and Haftar in Moscow on Monday failed to reach a lasting ceasefire deal after Haftar walked away from the meetings. A temporary cessation in hostilities was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan earlier this month and went into effect on Sunday.

Greece’s threat to scupper any deal for Libya comes amid increasing political tensions between Athens and Ankara, compounded by competition for natural gas reserves around the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which is divided between the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government in the south and the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.