Russia and Turkey hold new round of talks on Libya as Turkey calls foreign support to Haftar the ‘main obstacle’ to a ceasefire
On 30 July, the deputy spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexey Zaytsev, stated that Russia and Turkey would be holding a third round of consultations on Libya in Moscow ‘in the near future’. Zaytsev added that delegations from the two countries would discuss ‘different aspects of the Libyan crisis’ including a ceasefire declaration. On 27 July, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that continued external military support from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, France and Saudi Arabia to Libyan National Army (LNA) leader Khalifa Haftar represents the ‘greatest obstacle to peace’ in Libya. Akar said that Turkey’s main objective in Libya is to support a comprehensive political solution led by Libyans themselves, while criticising the LNA’s foreign allies for their disingenuous support of a political solution.
The follow up discussions between Turkey and Russia come after the two countries announced on 22 July that they were working towards a ceasefire agreement for Libya and have created a joint working group on Libya. That came just days after the Egyptian parliament approved the deployment of troops to Libya if needed, to counter Turkish aggression. Russia and Turkey continue to dominate the Libya file, with their influence heightened in recent weeks due to the influx of military capabilities and mercenary forces being deployed by both international actors to their Libyan clients – the LNA forces and the Government of National Accord (GNA)-aligned forces respectively – around Sirte and Jufra.
It seems that while the LNA’s withdrawal from Tripoli and western Libya in early June was in large part pre-arranged between Turkey and Russia, the agreement between the two countries broke down after the GNA forces moved on Sirte, with Russia wanting to ensure that the LNA-Russia retain control of Sirte, Jufra and access to the Oil Crescent ports, while the GNA-Turkey want to take control of these sites themselves. Turkey has said that the LNA should evacuate Sirte and Jufra in order for a ceasefire to be sustainable, and that it will negotiate with eastern political actors, but not Haftar. It is likely that the terms of any ceasefire would involve the LNA withdrawing from Sirte provided the GNA-Turkey forces agree not to push further east, but it is less clear whether the LNA or Russia would be willing to hand over control of Jufra airbase.