Moscow fumes at Ankara over meddling in Libyan crisis

“We believe that foreign interference will hardly help settle the situation but any activities to facilitate efforts to resolve the conflict and help the parties to find a solution are always welcome. Russia can only welcome international efforts,” news agency Tass quoted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying. [EPA/ SERGEI CHIRIKOV / POOL]

Russia has condemned Turkey’s intention to send troops to Libya to support Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord of Libya, against the head of the Libyan National Army, General Khalifa Haftar.

“We believe that foreign interference will hardly help settle the situation but any activities to facilitate efforts to resolve the conflict and help the parties find a solution are always welcome. Russia can only welcome international efforts,” news agency Tass quoted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Peskov said the situation in Libya “definitely causes much concern” to Russia.

“We have repeatedly reiterated that Russia is interested in finding a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis as soon as possible in order to end the bloodshed,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday (26 December) the parliament would consider on 7 January a proposal to allow Turkish troops in Libya to support the internationally recognised government (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj against the forces of the powerful eastern Libyan man Haftar, who is supported by Russia.

Erdoğan said the legislation should pass in parliament around 8-9 January, paving the way for the deployment of troops in Libya, at the request of Tripoli. A Libyan official in Tripoli had confirmed a formal request had been made for Turkish military support in the air, on the ground and at sea, according to Reuters.

The Turkish president recently signed with al-Sarraj a controversial memorandum of understanding (MoU) to demarcate maritime zones in the Eastern Mediterranean, a move which opened the Pandora’s Box in the region, among others, in Libyan politics.

Diplomacy heats up in the Mediterranean amid escalating Greece-Turkey row

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) recently signed between Turkey and Libya to demarcate maritime zones has shaken up politics in the Mediterranean, with Greece preparing a diplomatic counter-offensive.

During a visit to Tunisia this week, Erdoğan said Tunisia, Algeria, and Qatar should participate in the Berlin conference on the Libyan crisis in January. He added there were 5,000 Sudanese mercenaries and Russian troops in Libya, who he said were illegally present in the country as Haftar’s forces are an illegitimate body.

Asked to comment on the presence of Russian mercenaries in Libya, Peskov replied:

“In fact, Libya has turned into a shelter for mercenaries from a number of countries, as well as for terrorists […] All this is the result of the well-known actions of some well-known countries, which were aimed at destroying Libya’s statehood,” the Kremlin spokesman said. 

‘Neo-Ottoman expansionism’

Meanwhile, Greece’s alternate Foreign Affairs Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis criticised Turkey over its plans to send troops to Libya.

“[Turkey’s] neo-Ottoman expansionism is being condemned across the world,” the Greek minister told Skai radio.

“I do not see they are successful”, he said, adding that Greece is on alert but not worried, and that Athens will table all the issues at a meeting between Greek Premier Kyriakos Mitsotakis and US President Donald Trump in January.

Violence escalates

According to AFP, at least two civilians were killed and another 20 were injured in an airstrike today against a shopping street in Zawiya, which is located about 45 km west of Tripoli.

The raid, which occurred at rush hour, hit a pharmacy, a bakery and parked cars, the town’s mayor said.

GNA has accused General Khalifa Haftar’s forces of carrying out the raid.

“Repeated attacks, carried out by foreign aircraft supporting Haftar against neighborhoods and political installations aim to terrorise citizens and destabilise the country,” the GNA posted on Facebook today.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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