Turkey rejects ceasefire in Libya

Bassem Aly , Monday 13 Jul 2020

Vehicles of the "Tripoli Brigade", a militia loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), parade through the Martyrs' Square at the centre of the GNA-held Libyan capital Tripoli on July 10, 2020. AFP

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) refuses a ceasefire unless the Libyan National Army's (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar decided to withdraw his troops from central and western regions.

Speaking to the Financial Times on Sunday, Cavusoglu said the GNA had the "determination" to resume its attacks on the LNA in case the latter did not retreat from the port city of Sirte and Al-Jufra, which has Libya's largest air base.

Cavusoglu noted that Russia offered a ceasefire deal during talks in Istanbul last month with a “concrete date and time.”

But, after consultations with the GNA, the Tripoli-based government said it has preconditions on Sirte and Al-Jufra and wants Haftar to “return to the lines” his troops held five years ago.

In its report about the interview, the Financial Times stated that Cavusoglu hinted that his country may support any GNA offensive, describing its preconditions as "legitimate and reasonable".

“Now it depends on the other side, they should accept these preconditions for a lasting ceasefire,” Cavusoglu stated.

Last month, Egypt that is backing the LNA Commander Haftar  said it has the legitimacy to intervene in Libya to protect the country’s national security with the support of local tribes, stressing that Sirte and Al-Jufra are "red line" for Egyptian national security.

Turkey's top diplomat went further by saying that Turkey will respond to the recent air strikes on Al-Watiya air base. He said Turkey had "trainers and technical staff" at the base, though claiming that "none were harmed."

Sources told Al-Arabiya last Monday that Turkish intelligence officials were wounded during Sunday's air strikes on Al-Watiya air base, which was recently captured by the GNA and its Turkish backers. The wounded were transferred to hospitals in Tripoli and Turkey.

Brigadier-General Khaled Al-Mahgoub, a leading LNA commander, told Al-Arabiya that repeat strikes on western Libya’s Al-Watiya air base will take place soon.

Al-Mahgoub also said that Turkish radars, military equipment and air defence systems were destroyed during the air strikes.

Turkey, according to sources who spoke to Reuters in June, is negotiating the establishment of two bases — including one at Al-Watiya — with the GNA.

During past weeks, local and foreign media outlets reported that Turkey is preparing to attack Al-Al-Jufra.

Tripoli-based GNA is backed by Turkish troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries in its war against the LNA.

Head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdel-Rahman told Sky News Arabia on Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even began transferring non-Syrian mercenaries, in addition to Syrian ones, to Libya despite international condemnations and warnings.

Abdel-Rahman revealed that those mercenaries were located in areas under “Turkish occupation” in Syria. Turkey informed its mercenaries that their next battle will be in Sirte, said Abdel-Rahman, adding that they are transferred to Libya by air.

Turkish warships transferred other groups of mercenaries to Libya, revealed Abdel-Rahman. According to Sky News Arabia’s same report, Syrian mercenaries in Libya have reached 16,000. About 5,600 of them returned to Syria. 

LNA spokesperson said during an interview with Sky News Arabia last Wednesday that he expects a "Turkish attack at any time."

Ahmed Al-Mesmari stated that the LNA "will do everything needed to deter any aggression."

"We have evidence that Turkey is moving towards a decisive battle, which is the Sirte-Jufra battle. There are no indicators on the other side that [Turkey] will accept a ceasefire and go into negotiations," Al-Mesmari asserted.

The leading LNA figure noted that the Libyan army is only conducting "defensive operations to prevent manoeuvres and advancement by the enemy towards our (LNA) positions."

Al-Mesmari explained that the LNA will declare a ceasefire in case other parties to the conflict show commitment to peace, stop sending terrorists to Libya and end the presence of “invaders," referring to Turkey.

He emphasised that the LNA wants a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

The same position was shared by the Emirati state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, on Monday.

“The UAE, in cooperation with its partners, calls for the return of oil production as soon as possible in Libya and stresses that the presence of guarantees that prevent the prolonging and fuelling of the conflict is important. We will continue the political and diplomatic work. The priority goes to a ceasefire and a return to the political process,” tweeted Gargash.

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