Libya’s High Council of State and the Government of National Accord (GNA) welcomed Turkey and Russia’s call to reach a cease-fire in the country, reports said Thursday.
“The High Council of State welcomes the statement made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding the Libyan crisis and the attack on the capital,” a statement released by the council said.
The statement added that it fully supports all initiatives ensuring the protection of Libyan people’s lives and strives to stop the war.
The council also noted that any calls for dialogue need to adhere to the Skhirat Agreement signed by different political factions in Morocco in December 2015.
Libya's High Council of State, an executive and advisory body, was formed as part of the Libyan Political Agreement (Skhirat Agreement) signed on Dec. 17, 2015 in Skhirat, Morocco to end the civil war in the country under the guidance of the United Nations.
The GNA also said in a statement that it welcomed the call, saying they want peace, security and protection of the national unity of Libya and believe there's a political solution for the crisis.
The statement continued by saying that the GNA is waging a war of defense against those who attack it to obstruct the democratic transition process and the countries that support the forces.
“We welcome all initiatives to relaunch the political solution process and end the war as envisaged in the Skhirat Agreement, and we fully support the Berlin conference that will be held under the auspices of the United Nations,” the GNA added.
It also confirmed that the Libyan crisis should only be solved through political means.
Erdoğan and Putin will call for reaching a cease-fire in Libya by midnight on Jan. 12, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Wednesday in a joint news conference with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"We have decided to take the initiative and, as intermediaries, we call on all parties in Libya to stop hostilities as of midnight on Jan. 12, declaring a sustainable cease-fire, supported by the necessary measures to be taken for stabilizing the situation on the ground and normalizing daily life in Tripoli and other cities, and immediately coming together around a negotiating table with a view to putting an end to the sufferings of the Libyan people and bring back peace and prosperity to the country," a joint statement issued by the two leaders said.
Speaking Thursday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey will continue to defend its rights and interests in the Mediterranean, adding that Turkish troops are in Libya to bring an end to the injustice and oppression.
Libyan premier Al-Sarraj to hold talks in Brussels
The EU also pledged to make "efforts toward a peaceful and political solution" for the Libyan conflict after the visit of the leader of Libya's U.N.-recognized GNA to Brussels.
EU Council President Charles Michel and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell discussed the recent developments in Libya with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj Tuesday.
The EU leaders repeated the bloc's position on rejecting all kinds of military solutions and foreign interference in the conflict, stressing that it's the Libyan people who need to determine their future, and "only a political process can bring peace and stability closer."
Michel reiterated the EU's position on the Turkey-Libya pact on maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean as well. According to the EU, the memorandum does not have any legal consequences for the internal community because it infringes on the sovereignty of other states and does not comply with the internationally recognized Law of the Sea.
“As the legitimate government, we have the right to reach a memorandum of understanding with any country,” said al-Sarraj.
Al-Sarraj held separate discussions with the EU Parliament President David Sassoli.
Michel will visit President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 11 in Istanbul to discuss the situation in Libya. He will continue his diplomatic tour and meet Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi.
Libya and Turkey signed agreements in November outlining cooperation in terms of security and maritime affairs, angering Mediterranean countries, including Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, of whom the diplomatic maneuver prevents from unilaterally exploiting energy resources in the region.
Last week, Turkey's Parliament passed a motion allowing the government to send troops to Libya. The decision was criticized by various EU actors in the past few days. High Representative Borrell called it a "foreign interference" in the conflict that the EU rejects.
Libya's GNA recently made a formal request for "air, ground and sea" support from the Turkish military to help fend off an offensive from the forces of Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who is attempting to take control of the capital, Tripoli. Turkey supports the U.N.-backed government against the militia and mercenaries of the latter self-proclaimed military chief.
In April, Haftar's forces launched a military campaign to capture Tripoli from the internationally recognized government. Haftar announced on Dec. 12 that he had ordered militants to launch a "decisive battle" to capture the city.
More than 280 civilians and 2,000 fighters have been killed since the beginning of Haftar's assault on Tripoli, according to the United Nations. The fighting has displaced some 146,000 people, with the ongoing violence threatening to plunge Libya into violent chaos to rival the 2011 conflict that led to the ousting and murder of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Ankara is joined by Italy and Qatar in supporting Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj's legitimate government in Tripoli. Meanwhile, the rival force based in the east is supported by France, Russia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, alongside other key Arab countries.
Since the ousting of late leader Gadhafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya – Haftar in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the GNA in the capital Tripoli, which enjoys U.N. and international recognition.
Haftar forces bombard Souq al-Juma district
In a recent attempt, militias loyal to eastern Libya commander Haftar launched artillery and missile strikes in the capital Tripoli's Souq al-Juma district early Thursday.
Since early evening, a number of strong explosions have been heard in the area, which is close to Tripoli's only civilian airport, Mitiga.
Witnesses said Souq al-Juma was hit with many missiles, but there have been no statements issued on whether there are casualties.
Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) meanwhile announced the expansion of the no-fly zone to include Mitiga Airport.
"The LNA General Staff declared the expansion of the previously established no-fly zone in Tripoli, which includes the airport of Mitiga starting from 5 p.m. Wednesday (15:00 GMT)," LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
Al-Mismari warned airlines to respect the boundaries of the no-fly zone and not to put their planes at risk of being destroyed.
Speaking to Yeni Şafak daily, GNA Col. Adel Abdul Kafi gave information about the latest situation in Haftar forces’ offense targeting Sirte.
“We fought for eight months to take Sirte from Daesh and 700 of us were martyred. Therefore, we won’t give Sirte to Hafter; we will take it back.”
The warlord Haftar, backed by Egypt and the UAE, has made significant advances in recent weeks.
Regional actors meet to discuss Turkey-Libya deal
Meanwhile, France, Greece, Egypt and Cyprus Wednesday declared "null and void" agreements between Ankara and Libya assigning Turkey rights over a vast area of the Eastern Mediterranean.
A statement issued by the foreign ministers of the four countries – who met in Cairo – said the controversial agreements undermined regional stability.
Their Italian counterpart, who also took part in the meeting, did not sign the statement.
On the same day, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte received eastern Libyan commander Haftar, whose forces are attempting to overthrow Libya's U.N.-recognized government.
Haftar met Conte in Rome and the two held discussions for a couple of hours, according to Italian media reports. However, Italian authorities are yet to issue a statement regarding the content of the meeting.
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