Turkey and Qatar’s defense ministers discussed cooperation with Libya’s internationally recognized government on Monday, as Germany’s foreign minister warned of “deceptive calm” in the divided country during an overlapping visit to its capital.
Turkey provided crucial military support to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) to help it stave off a 14-month assault from rival forces based in eastern Libya earlier this year.
Libya has been split since 2014 between factions based in the east and west of the country, and regional powers have aligned themselves with the competing sides.
While Turkey and its regional ally Qatar support the GNA, forces in the east led by Khalifa Haftar have received backing from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Russia.
Turkey signed a military accord with the GNA late last year, as well as a memorandum of understanding on maritime boundaries, that rattled its rivals in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Chief of Staff General Yasar Guler were in Tripoli on Monday to “observe the operations” under the military cooperation deal with Libya, Turkey’s defense ministry said.
Turkey and Russia have emerged as the main power brokers in Libya’s conflict, with military front lines settling in recent weeks around the central towns of Sirte and Jufra. The two countries’ leaders spoke by phone about Libya on Monday.
Previous attempts to secure a ceasefire and a political deal in Libya, including at an international conference in Berlin in January, have stalled. An oil blockade imposed by forces in the east has cost the country billions of dollars in lost revenue.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who met his Libyan counterpart but not the Turkish or Qatari delegations, said the process started in Berlin remained the framework for resolving the conflict, and backed calls for a demilitarized zone around Sirte.
“We see a deceptive calm in Libya right now. Both sides and their international allies are continuing to arm the country on a massive scale and are sticking to preconditions for a ceasefire,” he said.
Maas, who was due to fly on to the UAE, said he expected a “positive signal” from the Gulf state on Libya, given its influence on Haftar.
“Only those who participate in a political process will be part of Libya’s future.”