Libya’s prime minister to meet with Turkish president in Ankara

Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj is about to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, as the two allies seek to lock in recent gains against the North African country’s rebel commander, Khalifa Haftar, ahead of a fresh round of peace talks on a potential truce.

For the past six years, Libya has been split between two rival camps, namely the internationally-recognized government of Sarraj, and another camp based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by rebel forces under the command of Haftar, a renegade general.

The strongman is supported by the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, and launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli, the seat of the government, in April last year. His forces haven’t been able to advance past the city’s outskirts, however.

In a statement on Thursday, the Turkish Presidency said that Erdogan and Sarraj were due to meet in Ankara at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

In recent months, Ankara, a close ally of Tripoli, has significantly helped the government push back Haftar’s rebel forces and take back multiple areas. The Turkish government has been providing the government with logistics and military equipment.

Furthermore, and in a controversial move, Ankara has sent thousands of Turkish-backed Syrian militants there to allegedly fight alongside the government forces against Haftar’s rebels.

“The whole world recognizes that Turkey changed the balance” on the ground in Libya, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday. “We have interests here (and) in the Mediterranean.”

The plan for the meeting on Thursday comes just a day after Libyan government forces managed to liberate Tripoli’s main airport from the rebels ahead of what appeared to be moves toward talks on a ceasefire and after months of gains to oust the strongman from much of his foothold in the northwest.

On Monday, the UN said both sides had agreed to resume ceasefire negotiations, warning that weapons and armed men flying into Libya in defiance of an arms embargo risked leading to a major escalation.

Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Multiple international attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides in Libya have so far failed.


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