Turkey will continue talks with Russia over reaching a lasting ceasefire in Libya despite the postponement of talks on Sunday, Turkey’s foreign minister said.
Speaking alongside Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at a news conference in Istanbul on Monday, Mevlut Cavusoglu said the postponement was unrelated to any lingering issues on the “core principles” between the two sides on Libya and Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to continue working together to establish a lasting ceasefire in Libya, Cavusoglu said.
With Turkish military support, Libya’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) has advanced for weeks against Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is backed by Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Heavy clashes have erupted as the GNA laid siege to LNA-held Sirte, close to major energy export terminals on the Mediterranean seaboard.
The push last week came despite a unilateral ceasefire proposal by Egypt, a backer of the LNA’s Haftar, who has waged a 14-month campaign to try and capture the capital.
After launching a counteroffensive in March against attacks on Tripoli, the GNA’s army recently retook strategic locations, including the Al-Watiya airbase and Tarhuna.
On Sunday, Russia and Turkey postponed ministerial-level talks that were expected to focus on Libya and Syria, where the two countries support opposing sides in long-standing conflicts.
Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov decided to put off the talks during a phone call, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.
However, Cavusoglu said that it was important to prevent another failed ceasefire.
A previous truce attempt collapsed earlier this year and shortly afterwards the GNA began to register battlefield victories – with the help of Turkish military advisers and drones.
Cavusoglu also said it would be “unrealistic” for Turkey and Russia to make decisions without consulting the Libyans, “especially the legitimate government”.
He dismissed speculation of a link with the situation in Syria, where Turkey and Russia are also on opposing sides of the war.
Libya, a major oil producer, has been mired in turmoil since 2011 when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in a NATO-backed uprising.
Last week, the United Nations said the warring sides had begun new ceasefire talks in Libya.