Turkey’s Erdogan meets head of weakening Tripoli government Sarraj

Turkey’s president has met with the head of Libya’s “recognized” government, following heightened tensions between Turkey and forces loyal to a rival Libyan authority. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 06 July 2019

Turkey’s Erdogan meets head of weakening Tripoli government Sarraj

  • Libya is split between two warring governments
  • The Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar rules much of the rest of the country

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s president has met with the head of Libya’s “recognized” government, following heightened tensions between Turkey and forces loyal to a rival Libyan authority.
In a statement from his office late Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his support for Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj’s forces.
Libya is split between two warring governments. Sarraj leads the weakened Tripoli government in the west, supported by an array of militias.
The Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar rules much of the rest of the country. His ongoing offensive to seize the capital has threatened to plunge Libya into another bout of violence on the scale of the conflict that ousted Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Erdogan called on Haftar’s forces to cease their attacks.
The military commander’s forces has said that Turkish vessels and interests would be considered targets, after accusing Turkey of helping militias allied with the Tripoli government. Six Turkish nationals were freed this week after Turkey threatened action.
The LNA also said it deployed more troops to join the Tripoli fighting.
On Friday, its media center posted footage it says shows “military battalions” that would be sent to the front for the first time. The footage showed dozens of armored vehicles moving in the desert under air cover.
The reinforcements came less than two weeks after Haftar’s forces were driven out of the strategic town of Gharyan, in a surprise attack by militiamen aligned with the Tripoli government.
The UN health agency said the death toll from the fighting around the capital had reached nearly 1000, including 53 who were killed in the airstrike on the Tajoura detention center for migrants.
The World Health Organization said the fighting has wounded over 5,000 others since Haftar launched his offensive on April 4.
Fighters aligned with the government in Tripoli received Turkish-made armored vehicles in May. The LNA said it destroyed Turkish-made drones during the fighting.
In a telephone call Saturday, Erdogan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Libyan crisis, among other topics. Haftar is backed by Russia, along with his Arab allies of the UAE and Egypt.
Haftar’s campaign against Islamic militants across Libya since 2014 won him growing support from world leaders concerned that Libya had become a haven for armed groups and a major conduit for migrants. But critics view him as an aspiring autocrat and fear a return to one-man rule.


Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

Updated 16 min 42 sec ago

Haftar agrees to lift Libya oil blockade with conditions

  • Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17

BENGHAZI: Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar announced Friday a conditional lifting of a months-long blockade on oilfields and ports by his forces.
“We have decided to resume oil production and export on condition of a fair distribution of revenues” and guarantee they “will not be used to support terrorism,” he said on television.
Pro-Haftar groups supported by the Petroleum Facilities Guard blockaded key oilfields and export terminals on January 17 to demand what they called a fair share of hydrocarbon revenues.
The blockade, which has resulted in more than $9.8 billion in lost revenue, according to National Petroleum Company (NOC), has exacerbated electricity and fuel shortages in the country.
Dressed in his military uniform, Haftar said the command of his forces had “put aside all military and political considerations” to respond to the “deterioration of living conditions” in Libya, which has Africa’s largest oil reserves.
The announcement comes after hundreds of Libyans protested last week in the eastern city of Benghazi, one of Haftar’s strongholds, and other cities over corruption, power cuts and shortages in petrol and cash.
Protesting peacefully at first, protesters on Sunday set fire to the headquarters of the parallel eastern government in Benghazi and attacked the police station in Al-Marj.
Police officers fired live ammunition to disperse them in Al-Marj, leaving at least one dead and several wounded, according to witnesses and the UN mission in Libya.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The country’s oil revenues are managed by the NOC and the central bank, both based in Tripoli, which is also the seat of Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Haftar runs a rival administration based in the country’s east.
Haftar— who has the backing of Egypt, the UAE and Russia — launched an offensive against Tripoli in April last year.
After 14 months of fierce fighting, pro-GNA forces backed by Turkey expelled his troops from much of western Libya and pushed them to Sirte, the gateway to Libya’s rich oil fields and export terminals.