Libya cease-fire hinges on Haftar withdrawal, says Turkey FM

Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) will agree to a cease-fire only if warlord Khalifa Haftar withdraws his forces from country’s central and western regions, the Turkish foreign minister said, Anadolu Agency reported.

Speaking to British daily the Financial Times (FT), Mevlut Cavusoglu said the Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, is “determined” to resume its offensive against Haftar’s forces unless they withdrew from two strategic locations, port city of Sirte and home to an airbase Jufra.

Cavusoglu pointed out that Russia presented a cease-fire offer during talks in Istanbul last month with a “concrete date and time.”

He said “when Ankara consulted with the GNA, the Libyan officials stated their preconditions on Sirte and Jufra and for Gen Haftar’s forces to return to “lines” they held in 2015.”

The article quoted Cavusoglu as telling them that Ankara may support the offensive and the GNA’s preconditions for a cease-fire are “legitimate and reasonable.”

Also speaking about an air attack against the al-Watiya air base last weekend, Cavusoglu told the FT that  “there was an investigation to determine who was responsible, but vowed that whoever it was “will pay”.”

Turkey had “trainers and technical staff” at the base, which Turkish-backed forces captured from Haftar in May, but none were harmed, he also said.

“We are not for any kind of escalation in the region, or war, but their [Haftar’s backers] engagement is with a putschist, Haftar,” Cavusoglu said.

Haftar on Jan. 14 refused to sign onto a Russian-Turkish initiative for a cease-fire and continued his offensive and failed attempt to capture the capital Tripoli.

Libya’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that they always sought to achieve a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week claimed the “Libyan government is unwilling to sign a cease-fire agreement and seeks a military solution.”

“We remind the Russian foreign minister that the Russian-Turkish initiative was signed by the GNA in Moscow while Haftar refused to sign and departed [Moscow], putting Russia in an embarrassing position,” said a statement from the Libyan Foreign Ministry.

Since April 2019, Haftar’s illegitimate forces have launched attacks on the Libyan capital of Tripoli and other parts of northwestern Libya, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths, including civilian women and children.

However, the Libyan government has recently achieved significant victories, pushing Haftar’s forces out of Tripoli and the strategic city of Tarhuna.