Turkey and Russia on Wednesday called on warring sides in Libya to declare a ceasefire on January 12.
The joint call for a ceasefire came following a meeting in Istanbul between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, where the two had earlier attended the inauguration ceremony of the new TurkStream gas pipeline.
Turkey and Russia’s ceasefire announcement comes days after the Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) forces initiated intensive airstrikes on the capital city of Tripoli, held by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
The war-torn North African country has been in turmoil since strongman Muammar Qaddafi was toppled and killed by rebels in late 2011, after being more than 40 years in power.
The Benghazi-based LNA took control of strategic coastal city Sirte on Monday.
The LNA launched its offensive in April to take the capital Tripoli from the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Serraj.
The LNA has received support from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. There have also been claims of support from France, although this has been denied.
The GNA has the support of the UN, Turkey, and Qatar.
While the UN and EU urge countries to avoid raising the tension in the country and decrease foreign involvement, Moscow and Ankara issued a joint statement calling for ending the clashes, and the start of the UN-sponsored peace talks.
The statement voiced concerns that the Libya conflict undermines regional security and triggers irregular migration.
“Spread of weapons, terrorism and other criminal activities including illicit trafficking” were other concerns of the two countries according to the announcement.
Russia, previously sent forces to support Haftar. Erdogan, on the other hand, said on Wednesday, Turkey has deployed 35 military personnel to Libya, but they will not take part in the conflict.
“The soldiers will not fight. Other soldiers who will be deployed later will also not enter any combat,” Hurriyet Daily News quoted as Erdogan saying.
Turkey’s parliament last week passed a motion approving a military presence in Tripoli.
British, French, German, and Italian foreign ministers condemned Turkey’s plans to intervene in the fight by sending military personnel to Tripoli on Tuesday.
A day after, al-Serraj briefly met with EU officials and Germany’s foreign minister in Brussels. European officials urged him to work for a ceasefire amidst an intensified fighting between the two sides. The GNA’s answer was that they had withdrawn from Sirte to avoid “bloodshed.”
New clashes broke out, however, on Tuesday afternoon between Sirte and Misrata regions, resulting in nine pro-Haftar fighters being killed according to LNA sources.