Germany warns of ‘second Syria’ as EU hosts Libya’s Al-Sarraj

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Libya's UN-recognised Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj meets European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels, Belgium January 8, 2020. (Reuters)
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From right, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pose for a photo prior to a meeting to discuss the situation in Libya at the EEAS building in Brussels, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. (AP)
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Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj (L), speaks with European Council President Charles Michel (R) and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell (C) during their meeting at the Europa building in Brussels, on January 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 08 January 2020

Germany warns of ‘second Syria’ as EU hosts Libya’s Al-Sarraj

  • As part of Europe’s accelerating diplomatic efforts, Italian PM Giuseppe Conte held talks with Haftar in Rome
  • Al-Sarraj also met EU Council President Charles Michel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

BRUSSELS: EU leaders met the head of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) on Wednesday as they scramble to contain the escalating crisis there, with Germany warning the country could deteriorate into a “second Syria.”
Fayez Al-Sarraj, whose beleaguered government is facing an offensive by rival forces who control the country’s east, met EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, who cautioned that Libya was facing a “watershed point.”
He also met EU Council President Charles Michel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who told reporters that “we want to prevent Libya from becoming the scene of a proxy war or Libya becoming a second Syria.”
Borrell’s and Maas’ warnings came after military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces — who have support from the UAE, Egypt and Russia — seized control of the coastal city of Sirte as part of his drive to take Tripoli and oust the GNA.
The EU pledged to “step up efforts toward a peaceful and political solution” in a statement released afterwards, hoping the so-called Berlin process — UN-sponsored talks planned for the German capital — can offer a way out.
Maas, who a day earlier took part in emergency talks on Libya with his French, British and Italian counterparts, said Sarraj had given his full support to the Berlin process and pledged to “push ahead with what is to be agreed there — both a cease-fire and an arms embargo with the neighboring states, but also above all the political process under the aegis of the United Nations.”
As part of Europe’s accelerating diplomatic efforts, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte held talks with Haftar in Rome.
No date has been fixed for the Berlin conference, but Maas suggested it could happen in the coming weeks.
Borrell, who on Tuesday condemned Turkey for “interference” in the Libya conflict, earlier in the day warned that the situation in Libya was becoming increasingly perilous.
Michel is due in Turkey this weekend for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while Borrell plans to meet other Libyan leaders including Haftar in search of a breakthrough.
Ankara says it has sent 35 Turkish troops who are carrying out training and coordination tasks to support the GNA, insisting they will not take part in any fighting.
Libya has been plunged into chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longstanding dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and is now divided between the GNA and Haftar’s rival authorities based in the country’s east.
The EU is keen to stop the conflict spiralling out of control, fearing that terror groups such as Daesh could exploit the instability to launch attacks and concerned the turmoil could lead to more migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Elsewhere, Libya was on the agenda as Russian President Vladimir Putin joined his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in calling for a cease-fire in Libya from midnight on Sunday as they met in Istanbul.


Turkey, Greece agree to resume talks to resolve disputes

Updated 22 September 2020

Turkey, Greece agree to resume talks to resolve disputes

  • Erdogan called for a regional conference that would gather all sides involved in the dispute — including Turkish Cypriots
  • The two neighboring NATO members have been locked in a tense standoff over energy exploitation rights

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey and Greece are ready to resume talks in a bid to overcome a dispute over maritime boundaries and rights to exploit oil and gas resources, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office said Tuesday.
The statement followed his video conference meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Charles Michel.
During the meeting, Erdogan called for a regional conference that would gather all sides involved in the dispute — including Turkish Cypriots — and said the “momentum” for dialogue should be protected,” according to the statement.
The two neighboring NATO members have been locked in a tense standoff over energy exploitation rights in an area between Turkey’s southern coast, several Greek islands and the war-divided island of Cyprus. Turkey sent a research vessel into the disputed waters this summer.
Following mediation efforts by Germany and others, Turkey pulled back the research vessel to port and both countries eased their naval presence and halted military exercises, paving the way for a dialogue.
It was not clear when and how the talks would begin. Erdogan told Merkel and Michel that “steps to be taken by Greece” would determine the course of the talks.
Greek-Turkish talks to resolve disputes were last held in 2016.
The Turkish leader also said he hoped that the next European Union summit would breathe new life into Turkish-EU ties, including allowing Turkish citizens visa-free travel rights to Europe and sealing a new agreement on migration.
EU members Greece and Cyprus had been pushing for EU sanctions against Turkey at the Sept. 24-25 summit meeting to due Turkey’s search for energy inside Cyprus’ economic zone. But the summit has been postponed for a week because Michel has gone into quarantine after a close collaborator was diagnosed with COVID-19.