Turkey has dismissed prospects of any ceasefire in Libya saying a deal incorporating the conflict’s existing front lines would not benefit the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the coastal city of Sirte and al-Jufra airbase need to be turned over to the GNA before it agrees to a ceasefire.
Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has been on the back foot after Turkish support helped the GNA turn back his 14-month assault on the capital, Tripoli.
Asked about a possible operation against LNA-held Sirte, Cavusoglu said there was a diplomatic effort to solve the issue.
“There are preparations for an operation but we are trying the [negotiation] table. If there is no withdrawal, there is already a military preparation. They [GNA] will show all determination here,” he said in an interview with state broadcaster TRT Haber on Monday.
Any further advance by the GNA would give it the chance to take control over Libya’s “oil crescent”, the region where most of its energy is produced and exported.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates – which supports Haftar’s forces along with Egypt and Russia – continues to work for an immediate ceasefire and a return to a political process in Libya, said Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone on Monday with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. The two men discussed the war in Libya and in Syria, where they back rival sides, the president’s office said, without giving details.
Turkey and the GNA signed a maritime delimitation deal last year, which Ankara says creates an exclusive economic zone from its southern coast to Libya’s northeast coast, and protects rights to resources in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said in May that Turkish Petroleum, which had applied for an exploration permit in the eastern Mediterranean, may begin oil exploration in the region in three or four months.
Cavusoglu said on Monday that Turkey would start seismic research and drilling operations for natural resources in the part of the eastern Mediterranean covered by the agreement. He did not provide a timeframe.
He added Turkey was open to sharing with companies from third countries such as Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.