Russian Foreign Ministry discusses Libyan conflict with Turkish ambassador

Russia's Foreign Ministry met with the Turkish ambassador to Moscow on Tuesday over the escalating conflict in Libya.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Samsar exchanged views on the current Middle Eastern agenda "with emphasis on resolving the military-political crisis in Libya", according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement.

The conflict has flared up once again in Libya, as Turkish-backed United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has made recent gains on the battlefield against the forces of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Analysts say Turkey’s contributions were vital in helping the Tripoli-based GNA seize military bases recently, as Turkish drones and artillery had been pounding the LNA ranks.

For Turkey, there are clear economic prizes in Libya, a country that possesses some of the richest hydrocarbon resources in Africa and has the potential to export nearly all of them. 

Though the LNA currently controls most of the oil resources, the GNA still holds refineries and some hydrocarbon reserves.

On Tuesday, LNA forces ordered Libya's largest oil field to halt work just hours after it restarted operations, the country's national oil company said. 

Turkey and the GNA also signed a maritime agreement ignoring territorial waters around the divided island of Cyprus and a number of Greek islands in November, as part of Turkish efforts to acquire control over oil resources in the eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey and Russia are also backing opposing sides in Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib where Russia has resumed air strikes despite a ceasefire agreed between Russia and Turkey in March.

Turkey and Russia brokered a ceasefire agreement on March 5 to end the fighting in Idlib between Turkish-backed forces and the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is backed by Russia, after a week-long Turkish military operation in the region in response to the killing of 36 Turkish soldiers.

But, Idlib is likely to cause further headaches for Turkey despite the fragile ceasefire. Hours after the meeting between Bogdanov and Samsar, Turkey's Presidential Communications Directorate published a video on the northern Syrian province. 

"Russian-backed Assad regime, terrorist organisations supported by international forces, Turkish-backed the Free Syrian Army and several other groups maintain their presence in the region. The possibility of an end to the ceasefire, which started with the Moscow Accord signed on March 5, can become reality at any time," Turkey's Presidential Communications Directorate said in the video.

Any humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib could have a domino effect in the region. Turkey already hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees. A major military operation against Idlib could result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of new refugees heading to Turkey.