- "This man is not trustworthy," said Erdogan, in reference to Haftar.
- Erdogan added that Turkey would not abandon Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli government.
- The future of the migration agreement between Turkey and the European Union was another topic discussed in the bilateral meeting.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged higher international pressure on the military forces in eastern Libya to accept a provisional truce, and said that Turkey remains committed to supporting the Libyan government recognized by the UN. Erdogan made the comments after a meeting in Istanbul with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last Sunday hosted a peace conference on Libya in Berlin. The conference resulted in a provisional ceasefire.
During a joint press conference with Merkel, the Turkish leader strongly criticized Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces, deployed in eastern Libya in April, launched an offensive towards the capital Tripoli, the seat of the Government of National Accord, legitimized by the U N. “This man is not trustworthy,” said Erdogan, in reference to Haftar.
He stressed the countries that participated in the Berlin summit “should not entertain this man,” referring to the attack and threats from Haftar forces, which bombed the Mitiga International Airport in Tripoli earlier this week. Erdogan added that Turkey would not abandon Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli government. “We are determined to give him all the support we can afford,” he added.
Haftar’s forces, which control vast areas of eastern and southern Libya, get support from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as France and Russia. Turkey, in turn, provides aid to the government of Tripoli, which is also supported to a lesser degree by Qatar and Italy. Ankara sent troops in support of Al-Sarraj, but the Turkish leader reiterated that they only include “instructors and experts,” and not a combat force.
Erdogan and Merkel publicly disagreed over the outcome of the Berlin peace summit. The German chancellor said that Haftar agreed in principle to the truce, while the Turkish President insisted that the Libyan marshal “did not put his signature” on any documents. The future of the migration agreement between Turkey and the European Union (EU), which was established in March 2016, and which significantly reduces the flow of migrants towards Europe, was another topic discussed in the bilateral meeting.
The number of migrants coming from Turkey and entering Europe through Greece increased significantly in 2019. In 2016, and under pressure from Germany, the EU agreed to grant Turkey around €6 billion to help the 3.6 million Syrian refugees installed in the Eurasian country, and to promote other initiatives to prevent the departure of migrants towards Greece.
Merkel, during the joint presser, admitted that the EU could provide additional aid in support of Turkey. “I can imagine the EU providing support beyond the two times €3 billion,” she said. Erdogan has often accused the EU of failing to fulfil its part of the agreement, and in the past has threatened to “open the door” to migrants looking to reach Europe. The Turkish leader also said that his country could not “continue to bear the burden” of hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees, and he wants European support to install them in the so-called “security zone” in northern Syria. European countries remain reluctant to this prospect.