Europeans call for peaceful settlement in Libya, Turkey intent on military solution
PARIS – The European Union has intensified diplomatic efforts to forge a peaceful settlement in Libya as Turkey discounts the Egyptian initiative as not "believable," implicitly pushing for a military solution to the North African country's conflict.
The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, and the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy urged all conflict parties in Libya to immediately stop all military operations and constructively engage in peace negotiations.
International efforts must include “the withdrawal of all foreign forces, mercenaries and military equipment supplied in violation of the UN arms embargo from all regions of Libya,” a June 9 joint statement said.
The statement follows increased diplomatic efforts by Germany to push for a political solution to the Libyan crisis, in which forces loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, are fighting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Earlier on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her concern in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the recent escalation of fighting in the North African country.
On Monday, Merkel also discussed the situation in the country with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Merkel told Sisi that United Nations-backed negotiations must remain the key aim of the peace process.
Recent weeks have marked a turning point in a complex conflict, with Turkey dramatically increasing its support for the GNA to tip the balance of power in their favour. On May 18, GNA forces recaptured the strategically located al-Watiya airbase.
On June 6, Egypt unveiled the Cairo declaration, which calls for the withdrawal of “foreign mercenaries from all Libyan territory, dismantling militias and handing over their weaponry,” as explained by Sisi in a news conference in Cairo.
The initiative also proposes holding UN-supervised presidential council elections and drafting a constitutional declaration to regulate elections for a later stage.
The GNA camp, however, quickly poured cold water on the truce plan, with GNA spokesman Mohamad Gnounou saying that “we will choose the time and place when” the war ends.
Ankara seems intent on pursuing a military solution and rejecting peace efforts. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu dismissed the Egyptian proposal as an attempt to save Haftar following his setbacks on the battlefield.
“The ceasefire effort in Cairo was stillborn. If a ceasefire is to be signed, it should be done at a platform that brings everyone together,” Cavusoglu told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. “The ceasefire call to save Haftar does not seem sincere or believable to us.”
In recent days, forces loyal to Libya’s GNA, backed by Turkey, declared a fresh offensive that aims to take Sirte in a bid to build upon a string of recent successes against LNA forces.
The Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte is a key gateway to the country’s major oil fields in the east, still held by pro-Haftar forces.