By Agence France-Presse
Libya’s UN-recognized unity government has said it will boycott talks on the conflict in the North African country to be held by Arab League foreign ministers next week.
Foreign minister Mohamad Taher Siala told the bloc’s executive council on Friday, June 19, that the planned meeting would “merely deepen the rift” between Arab governments on the conflict, his ministry said.
The talks, to be held by videoconference because of coronavirus concerns, were called for by Egypt, a key supporter of the Tripoli government’s archfoe, eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar.
Siala complained there had been no prior consultation with his government, even though the meeting concerned Libya, and said the virtual format of the meeting was not appropriate for addressing the thorny issues involved.
The head of Tripoli’s Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, visited Algeria on Saturday, June 20, and had talks with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, the official Algerian Press Service said.
Algeria, which is seeking to mediate a peaceful solution to the Libya war, shares a 1,000-kilometer (620 miles) border with Libya and has repeatedly denounced foreign interference in its eastern neighbor.
Turkey, which backs the GNA, said Saturday that Haftar’s forces must withdraw from the strategic city of Sirte for a lasting ceasefire and accused France of “jeopardizing” NATO security.
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey’s presidential spokesman, told Agence France-Presse that Sirte and Al-Jufra both needed to be evacuated by Haftar’s forces, as demanded by the GNA, for a “sustainable ceasefire”.
Kalin accused France of “jeopardizing” NATO’s security by supporting Haftar, whose forces have been conducting an offensive to take the capital Tripoli since last year.
GNA forces are now in the ascendancy after defeating Haftar’s forces, driving them out of western Libya earlier this month. It aims to seize Sirte and Al-Jufra.
Egypt responded with a peace initiative that was welcomed by fellow Haftar supporters the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, but was widely viewed as a bid to buy time for Haftar’s force to regroup.
The GNA and Turkey both dismissed the initiative and called for continued ceasefire negotiations under the aegis of the United Nations.
Washington too called for UN-led ceasefire talks.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by violence, drawing in tribal militias, jihadists and mercenaries since the 2011 toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a Western-backed uprising.
The latest escalation has been marked by an uptick in foreign involvement.
Recent weeks have seen tensions rise between Turkey and France, which despite public denials has long been suspected of favoring Haftar until his recent setbacks.
The United Nations has urged outside powers to respect a deal reached at a January conference in Berlin, calling for an end to foreign meddling and upholding a much-violated arms embargo.