Eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar is violating Libya’s truce and so cannot be expected to respect the ceasefire called between his forces and pro-government troops, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday.
Despite efforts by Turkey and Russia, Haftar abandoned talks on a ceasefire in Moscow earlier this month and his blockade of Libyan oilfields overshadowed a summit in Berlin last week aimed at agreeing on a permanent truce.
His Libyan National Army (LNA) faction aims to capture the capital, Tripoli, through the backing of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russian mercenaries and African troops.
Turkey meanwhile backs Fayez al-Serraj’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
Fighting has abated in the past weeks but picked up at the weekend at the frontline in southern Tripoli, where artillery fire could be heard, a Reuters reporter said. More than 150,000 people have been displaced by the months of fighting.
Speaking before leaving on a visit to Algeria, Erdogan said Haftar’s forces had repeatedly violated the ceasefire, adding that international support for the LNA was “spoiling” Haftar.
“At this point, we need to see clearly what Haftar’s identity is. He is a man who has betrayed his superiors before as well,” Erdogan said. “It is not possible to expect mercy and understanding from someone like this on the ceasefire.”
“He’s continuing attacks with all his resources. However, he will not be successful here.”
Libya has had no stable central authority since the toppling of strongman Muammar Gaddafi by NATO-backed rebels in 2011. It has had two rival governments, in the east and the west, for more than five years, with streets controlled by armed groups.
Turkey has repeatedly said Haftar must choose a political solution to the conflict and has urged foreign powers to press the commander into a truce. It has also sent military advisers and trainers to help the GNA fend off Haftar’s assault on Tripoli.
Ankara has said that it will abide by a United Nations arms embargo on Libya as long as the ceasefire is maintained, but has said it could also deploy troops if necessary.
In Berlin, foreign powers agreed to form a special committee made up of five military officials from each side to shore up the shaky truce. They are due to meet for the first time this week in Geneva.
Erdogan said on Sunday he did not expected a result from that committee due to Haftar’s stance.
Turkey, the UAE, Egypt, Russia and western countries agreed in Berlin to uphold an existing arms embargo. But the U.N. mission in Libya said on Saturday numerous cargo flights bringing advanced weapons, trucks and fighters from countries who took part in the summit have been landing in western and eastern Libya.