Russia and Turkey, two countries on opposing sides of Libya’s civil war, are appealing for a ceasefire in the north African country, beginning from Sunday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin “are calling for a ceasefire in Libya at midnight on Jan. 12,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
He spoke in Istanbul, alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
In a joint statement, Erdogan and Putin deplored the “worsening situation in Libya” as “undermining the security and stability of Libya’s wider neighbourhood, the entire Mediterranean region, as well as the African continent, triggering irregular migration, further spread of weapons, terrorism and other criminal activities including illicit trafficking.”
They reaffirmed their commitment “to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Libya,” adding that a military solution “only causes further suffering and deepens the divisions among Libyans.”
The two leaders expressed support for a peace conference Germany is hoping to host soon in Berlin, but said results could only be achieved “with the involvement and commitment of Libyans and neighbouring countries.”
Libya has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed overthrow of its long-term ruler Moamer Gaddafi, but violence has intensified since April, when military strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on the capital, Tripoli.
Haftar, who has his power base in eastern Libya, is trying to unseat a weak government that has never had much authority beyond Tripoli, but is recognized by the United Nations.
It is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj.
Foreign powers have been drawn into the conflict. Russia, like Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, is on Haftar’s side and has reportedly sent mercenaries to help, while Turkey has dispatched troops to bolster the Tripoli government.
European Union countries have struggled to play a meaningful role in the crisis, despite their strategic interest in stabilizing a country that is rich in oil and gas and is a key transit route for Europe-bound migrants.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met al-Serraj in Brussels on Wednesday, amid preparations for the Berlin conference on Libya.
Originally scheduled for late 2019, it has been postponed to January, but there’re still no fixed date for it.
After the talks, Maas said the Libyan premier supports German mediation efforts, thereby fulfilling an important prerequisite to holding the summit in the German capital.
Al-Serraj backed a ceasefire, an arms embargo and a political process led by the United Nations in Libya, Maas said.
The situation in Libya has become more difficult, especially around the capital Tripoli, Maas said.
The aim is to prevent Libya from becoming “the scene of a proxy war.”
There were parallel diplomatic efforts in Italy, Libya’s former colonial power, where Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte hosted a meeting with Haftar in Rome.
Officials in Rome said the meeting lasted almost three hours, but did not give details of what was discussed.
Conte was expected to see al-Serraj later Wednesday, according to media reports.
However, the ANSA news agency reported that this meeting was no longer going to take place.
Libya is also likely to feature when EU President Charles Michel travels to Istanbul and Cairo on Saturday, to meet Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.
“The EU cannot be divided but must speak with one voice.
“We need to stop arm supplies, we need to stop all foreign meddling in Libya,” Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio wrote on Facebook.