Khalifa Haftar declared himself ruler of Libya earlier this week, scrapping 2015 UN unity agreement. Turkey has vowed to “defend” Libya’s UN-recognised government after eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar declared himself ruler of the North African country.
Turkey’s foreign ministry accused Haftar on Wednesday of trying to “create a military dictatorship” and said the military leader had shown his true intentions by withdrawing from a landmark UN-brokered agreement to unite the country.
“Turkey will continue to stand by the Libyan people in defending the Government of National Accord and all other legitimate institutions and to support the efforts for a political solution.” the foreign ministry said.
Turkey’s foreign ministry also urged the international community to respond to Haftar’s actions, adding that the military leader had “undoubtedly exposed his intention to establish a junta regime in Libya”.
“With this announcement, Haftar has once again demonstrated that he does not seek a political solution to the crisis in Libya, does not support international efforts in this regard, and aims to create a military dictatorship in the country.” the ministry added.
The comments came after Haftar declared that he had a “popular mandate” to govern the North African country, and said the 2015 UN agreement had “destroyed” Libya.
“The political agreement destroyed the country. We will work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions,” Haftar said in a televised address.
On Tuesday, the GNA responded to Haftar’s announcement, accusing him of staging a “coup”.
“It’s a farce and the latest in a long series of coups d’etat,” the government said in a statement.
Russia and US react
Haftar, a former general under Gaddafi, has been leading an assault on the capital Tripoli since last April with his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
Although the LNA last year managed to advance into the southern suburbs of Tripoli, it has lost ground to pro-GNA forces during clashes this month.
Russia and the US have urged both parties to resume a political process, with Washington saying it “regrets” Haftar’s nixing of the 2015 agreement.
“The United States regrets LNA commander Haftar’s suggestion that changes to Libya’s political structure can be imposed by unilateral declaration and reiterates the call for an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities,” the US embassy in Libya said in a statement.
Although the US officially backs the GNA, Tripoli has accused Western powers of covertly backing the military leader.
Last year, after Donald Trump spoke on the phone with Haftar, the White House said in a statement that the US president “recognised Field Marshall Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”.
Haftar promises to protect Libya from “Turkish invaders”
Libya’s eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar has promised to fight Turkish forces if UN-led peace talks in Geneva break down.
“We cannot sit idly by,” said Haftar, according to comments to a Russian news agency carried by Sputnik News. “The armed forces will fulfill their national and constitutional duty to protect citizens, the country’s sovereignty and borders from Turkish invaders,” added Haftar.
Haftar accused Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of using the ceasefire to transfer Syrian mercenaries, Turkish soldiers, terrorists and weapons to Tripoli. Haftar also said he supported European Union plans to use a naval mission to enforce a UN arms embargo.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed on Friday that Syrian fighters are operating in Libya alongside a Turkish training force, according to reports from the AFP news agency.
“There are also people from the Syrian National Army,” said Erdogan, referring to fighters formerly known as the Free Syrian Army.
Erdogan levelled fresh accusations at Russia, saying some 2,500 mercenaries had been sent to Libya by Moscow. He said some “15,000 terrorists” were supporting Haftar.
Turkey, as well as Qatar, backs the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which opposes Haftar who is supported by Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
‘More hope’ in UN talks
UN envoy Ghassan Salame on Thursday kicked off military negotiations between the GNA and Haftar loyalists.
The GNA had shunned a second round of indirect talks following a rocket attack on a port in Tripoli. However, GNA representatives returned to negotiations following a short break, Salame told the AFP news agency.
Salame optimistically described both sides in discussions as returning for fresh talks with “even more energy towards finding a deal,” referring to a military settlement as “essential”.
Libya has been in conflict since the toppling of longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, sparking fighting between armed factions vying for control of the oil-rich country.
Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli last April and made a number of quick advances, but his fighters stalled on the edge of the city.
The first round of military discussions ended with no outcome earlier this month, although Salame has said there is “more hope” in these latest negotiations.