Macron calls for restraint in Libya as Europe warns against Turkish intervention

Macron calls for restraint in Libya as Europe warns against Turkish intervention
Macron calls for restraint in Libya as Europe warns against Turkish intervention

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - European leaders stepped up efforts to stop the armed escalation in Libya as the French and German leaders held telephone talks with regional counterparts amid a flurry diplomatic exchanges.

The intervention did little slow Turkey's push to deploy its forces to the conflict zone and bolster the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered on Monday fast-tracked legislation to approve a military operation on the far-side of the Mediterranean.

A statement from the Elysee Palace contained a joint call for "the greatest restraint" by all parties in Libya from President Emmanuel Macron and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt.

The pair held talks late Sunday around the same time that Angela Merkel of Germany was on the phone with Mr Erdogan. The contacts are set to continue ahead of a trip to Turkey by the leaders of Britain, France and Germany early next month. "A further exchange was agreed to strengthen diplomatic efforts," a government spokesman in Berlin said.

Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu presented the plan to opposition parties following a series of bilateral agreements with the GNA, including a maritime treaty that has provoked uproar around Europe. Mr Erdogan wants approval for the bill by January 9 but the Republican opposition party has declared it will vote against the measure.

"If today Libya becomes like Syria, then the turn will come for the other countries in the region," Mr Cavusoglu said. "We need to do whatever is needed to prevent Libya from being divided and slide into chaos, and that is what we are doing. It is the legitimate government there that we deal with."

The beleagured GNA leadership has sought to internationalise the conflict as its territory is encircled by the rival forces of the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Ankara has already sent military supplies to the GNA despite a United Nations embargo, according to a UN report circulated last month and there are video reports of Syrian fighters allied with Turkey arriving in Tripoli in recent days.

The speaker of the Libyan parliament last week warned that the agreements with Turkey would be voided by the institution. "The Libyan parliament will take action to ensure the withdrawal of international recognition of this government," Aguila Saleh said during a visit to Cyprus where he was seeking support for the EU to withdraw its recognition of the GNA.

"It is time to form a new government supported by the Libyan people and parliament."

Officials loyal to Mr Haftar have warned the Turkish shipments to Tripoli will be targets. Farag Al Mahdawi, the chief of staff of the LNA, said his forces would protect the Libyan coast. "I have an order; as soon as the Turkish research vessels arrive, I will have a solution. I will sink them myself," he said.

In a statement released before Christmas, the EU demanded support for the UN-led mediation efforts in the conflict. It called for all sides to attend a peace conference being organised for Berlin in mid-January.

"The EU strongly supports the efforts of United Nations Special Representative Ghassan Salamé and the Berlin process, as the only avenue towards relaunching the Libyan political process and to rebuild a peaceful, stable and secure Libya," it said. "All participants to the Berlin process should engage constructively in bringing about a peaceful resolution to the conflict, that preserves Libyan sovereignty and is negotiated in the interest of all Libyans."

An editorial in the French newspaper Le Monde said infighting between European powers, particularly France and Italy, had contributed to the crisis. "The spiral of foreign interference in the Libyan conflict threatens maritime balances in the eastern Mediterranean, and the stability of North Africa and the Sahel," it warned. "Europe, with its divisions exacerbated, has deprived itself of all effective action."

Updated: December 30, 2019 07:47 PM

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