Erdoğan-Sarraj summit closes doors on negotiations with Haftar in Libya

Fayez al Sarraj, prime minister of the U.N.-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in war-torn Libya, said there would be no negotiations with his opponent, Libyan General Khalifa Haftar, following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara.

“We will not give (Haftar) the opportunity to negotiate in the coming process. We will continue our fight until we completely eliminate the enemy,” BBC Turkish quoted Sarraj as saying, as he called Haftar a “war criminal,” and his self-styled Libyan National Army “illegitimate forces.”

The GNA has recently gained the advantage over LNA forces, recapturing a major base in the western part of the country and ousting Haftar’s forces from Asaba, a key town south of the capital Tripoli with military support from Turkey.

On Wednesday, ahead of the Ankara meeting to discuss developments and a potential ceasefire, Sarraj announced that they had retaken the strategically important Tripoli International Airport from LNA forces. Russian and Arab outlets have since announced that Haftar’s forces started to retreat from the outer neighbourhoods of Tripoli.

“We are closely monitoring the putschist Haftar’s attempts to illegally sell the oil that belongs to the Libyan people in order to buy more weapons,” Erdoğan said in the press briefing after the meeting.

“Unlawful sales of the oil by putschists must not be allowed,” Erdoğan continued.

The Turkish president reiterated support for “justice and the righteous,” and said Turkey and Libya had agreed to further develop cooperation over restrictions on maritime territory.

Turkey had made a maritime deal with Libya last year, redefining the territorial waters and increasing Turkey’s claim in the Mediterranean. Another deal for military cooperation followed, and Turkey has since sent senior military advisers and weapons to Sarraj’s forces, accompanied by Syrian mercenaries it recruited.

Stability in Libya is “favourable for the whole region,” Erdoğan said. “We will not abandon our Libyan brothers to the mercy of putschists and their legionnaires.”

Libya’s unrest since strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011 intensified in April 2019 when the LNA launched an attempt to take control in Tripoli, with support from Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, among others.

Steps to be taken for the future will be discussed in further meetings, the leaders said.

Ahead of the meeting, an unnamed Turkish official had told Reuters that Turkey would reject any proposal to divide Libya between warring factions, adding, “Everyone wants to sit at the table without losing territory, but the territory you hold strengthens your positions at the table.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Wednesday had said Haftar could not win the war, “as evidenced by the capture of the coastline from Tripoli to Tunisia and the international airports, and the advances on the ground.”

On Monday the United Nations said Libya's warring factions had agreed to resume ceasefire talks, but details on how and when are not clear yet.

Haftar was to hold meetings in Egypt on Wednesday, and reports in Arab media outlets said he demanded that the Turkish military withdraw from Libya as a condition to restart ceasefire talks.

Sarraj’s deputy prime minister Ahmed Maiteeg was in Moscow on Wednesday for a series of meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.

Lavrov after the meeting called for “emphasised the importance of an early cessation of hostilities and starting an inclusive dialogue with the participation of the leading Libyan political forces and social movements,” a statement by the ministry said.

Lavrov also “expressed his principled support for the initiative put forward by President of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh on April 23, which creates the basis for starting intra-Libyan talks with an eye towards developing compromises to overcome existing problems and to form unified government bodies in the country.”