Erdoğan says end to Haftar’s aggression key to Libyan ceasefire

(Updates with further comments by Erdoğan in paragraphs 1-5)

General Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has yet to sign the ceasefire agreement devised by Russia and Turkey on Jan. 12, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told reporters on his way back from Sunday’s peace summit in Berlin.

“It is telling that Haftar has not signed the documents until this moment that we are leaving,” Erdoğan said. “[The agreement] remained completely verbal, with all participants bearing witness.”

Turkey has signed the final declaration of the summit, which convened to seek a permanent ceasefire in Libya and put forth in its final declaration a roadmap for peace through a political process under UN supervision.

“In case the ceasefire Mr. Putin and I called for is adhered to, the path to the political process will be cleared,” Erdoğan said.

A military committee with five people each from the sides of Haftar and Fayez al Sarraj, the prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), will convene in coming days within the framework of the summit’s resolutions, Erdoğan said. “The key point there is for Haftar to end his aggressive attitude.”

The Turkish president said Haftar had been violating agreements and attacking the legitimate government since April, when the LNA leader launched an offensive to take Tripoli.

Turkey signed a military cooperation deal with the Tripoli-based GNA in November, and the parliament recently passed a bill approving the deployment of troops to the war-torn north African country.

Erdoğan said Turkey has yet to send troops to Libya, even though it has deployed military trainers and advisers.

Turkey’s involvement in the Libyan conflict had been under a level of scrutiny that was not shown to actors backing General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which has seized control of most of the country and last year launched an offensive to capture the capital city, the president said.

“At the moment we aren’t sending military forces, we are only sending a cadre of trainers and advisers,” the state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Erdoğan as saying.

But while Turkey has extended a crucial line of support to the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord, the LNA has been boosted by 2,500 mercenaries from the Russian Wagner company, and 5,000 Sudanese soldiers, as well as considerable military and financial aid from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Chad and Nigeria, Erdoğan said.

While Erdoğan denied that Turkish military forces had been deployed to fight in Libya, several media outlets reported in recent weeks that Turkey has trained and transferred thousands of Syrian fighters from Turkish-backed rebel groups to the north African conflict.

Ankara ramped up its involvement in Libya after signing deals with the Tripoli government in November that also lend weight to Turkey’s claim to jurisdiction over an expansive area of the eastern Mediterranean that overlaps with Greek and Cypriot claims.

The European Union therefore sees the rebuttal of Turkey’s deal with the Government of National Accord as a crucial issue in the peace talks, while European states including France are accused of backing Haftar against the U.N.-recognised government.

Erdoğan rejected the bloc’s bid to take a place in the peace process, saying it was “not right in the presence of the U.N.”