ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called on Europe to support its work in Libya, where it is providing military support to the internationally recognised government, if it wants to end the conflict there.
Erdogan made his remarks in a column published on the Politico website on Saturday, ahead of a summit in Berlin on Sunday that will try to stabilise the country.
At the meeting, Germany and the United Nations will push rival Libyan camps fighting over the capital, Tripoli, to agree to a truce and monitoring mechanism as first steps towards peace, diplomats and a draft communique said.
Turkey supports the government of Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli and describes Khalifa Haftar, who heads the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA), as a coup plotter.
“Keeping in mind that Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya, the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance,” Erdogan wrote.
“We will train Libya’s security forces and help them combat terrorism, human trafficking and other serious threats against international security,” he added.
As the summit loomed, the Turkish president spoke by phone with its host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to discuss developments in Libya and the region, Erdogan’s office said.
In a sign of tensions surrounding the Libyan issue, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticised Greece for hosting Haftar ahead of the summit in a tweet directed at Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.
“Inviting Haftar to Greece and highlighting Greek national agenda sabotage the efforts to bring peace to Libya. We would like to remind our Greek friends that these futile efforts are in vain. @NikosDendias,” Cavusoglu wrote.
Sunday’s summit will put pressure on Haftar and the LNA to halt a nine-month offensive against Tripoli after a week-long lull in fighting. But it will not try to broker power-sharing between the two sides, said diplomats briefed on preparations.
Haftar and Serraj are both due in Berlin – along with Erdogan and the leaders of Russia, Egypt and other Western and Arab powers. Libya has been in turmoil since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Erdogan said that if Libya’s legitimate government were to fall, Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda “will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet”.
Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Sudanese and Chadian fighters, and most recently Russian mercenaries. France has also given some support.
On the other side, Turkey has supported Serraj by sending troops to balance out recent gains by Russian snipers. Hundreds of pro-Turkey fighters from Syria’s war have also been deployed, diplomats say.