17 January 2020, Greece, Athen: Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias (l) welcomes Libyan General Khalifa Haftar ahead of their talks, days before a Libya conference in Berlin. Photo by: Angelos Tzortzinis/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Erdogan Says Hopes for 'Important Step' in Libya Talks Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said he hoped for an "important step" to cement Libya's fragile ceasefire at an international peace conference in Germany.
"We see the Berlin summit as an important step on the way to cementing the ceasefire and a political solution," Erdogan told reporters at an Istanbul airport before leaving to attend the talks.
Progress in peace efforts after the January ceasefire "should not be sacrificed to the ambitions of blood and chaos merchants", he said.
Libyan Strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive last April against Tripoli, seat of the UN recognised Government of National Accord.
After months of combat killing more than 2,000 people a ceasefire took effect on January 12 backed by both Turkey and Russia, which is accused of supporting Haftar.
Ankara strongly supports the Tripoli government led by Fayez al-Sarraj and sent troops to Libya after signing military and maritime deals with the GNA.
Erdogan, who is already angry over Haftar's abandoning ceasefire talks in Moscow early this week, also slammed Greece for hosting the Libyan commander.
Haftar paid a surprise visit to Athens on Thursday.
Erdogan accused Greece of acting with "revenge" after it was not invited to the Berlin talks.
"Greece is seriously disturbed because it was not invited to Germany," Erdogan said.
And he said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was playing a "wrong game" and taking "wrong steps" on Libya.
Some years ago Mr. Haftar was living in the United States, not far from the CIA, as an exile, while the late Libyan leader, Muamar Qaddafi, was ruling that country. During the civil war of 2011, when eventually Mr. Qaddafi was murdered by rebels associated with General Haftar, the United States, France, the UK and Qatar gave substantial support to rebel groups. Support included military materiel, funds and paramiliatary support. At the time, a number of observers noted that had the UN resolution, which imposed a no-fly zone over most parts of Libya, not been implemented, Libya's air force would have neutralized rebel groups. At the time the UN Resolution came into effect, they said, Libya's military seemed on the verge of squelching the rebellion.
After Mr. Qaddafi was executed by rebels associated with Mr. Haftar, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as saying, "We came. We Saw. He died", afterwhich she was heard to laugh at her own remarks.
Allegedly Mrs. Clinton was also in the center of the Benghazi controversy, in which a U.S. consulate was overrun by militants and during when the U.S. ambassador was brutally murdered.
A number of critics maintained that the Obama administration had advance intelligence that within the week before the Benghazi raid, militants were rather active in the area and were preparing to launch a strike against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
Nonetheless, according to critics at that time, they said that U.S. mariens and other military defense forces attached to the Consulate were adivsed to "stand down" beofre the raid was launched.
Some weeks later, Mrs. Clinton was called before a Congressional committee to answer for the lapses in security. At one point, with some level of indignation, she said, "What difference does it make....."
As well, according to reports in "The Washington Post," reports published during the civil war while it raged in 2011, Mr. Haftar likely was a CIA asset and had been since at least the time he had entered the U.S. as a "political exile".
Almost on the eve of the civil war, observers and analysts said that Libya had a higher standard of living, per capita, compared to many other countries in Africa.
They say that there were reports that the late Qaddafi was planning to put Libya's currency on the gold standard; exports of Libyan oil earned billions in export credits.
They said Libya's infrastructure was extensive and well-maintained, in many instances.
However, after multiple and many airstrikes that had been conducted by forces of the U.S., U.K., Qatari and France, many parts of urban Libya lay in ruins, by the end of 2011.
Before the civil war of 2011, Libya was a major exporter of "sweet oil" to various parts of Europe.
Sweet oil is highly desired, as it contains much less sulphur than grades of oil of lower quality and is considered a more effective & efficient type of fossil fuel.
Libya Oil Exports Blocked, Raising Stakes for Berlin Peace Summit By Imed Lamloum
Forces loyal to Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar blocked oil exports from the war-ravaged country's main ports Saturday, raising the stakes on the eve of an international summit aimed at bringing peace to the North African nation.
The move to cripple the country's main income source was a protest against Turkey's decision to send troops to shore up Haftar's rival, the head of Tripoli's UN-recognised government Fayez al-Sarraj.
It comes ahead of Sunday's conference in Berlin that will see the United Nations try to extract a pledge from world leaders to stop meddling in the Libyan conflict -- be it through supplying troops, weapons or financing.
"All foreign interference can provide some aspirin effect in the short term, but Libya needs all foreign interference to stop. That's one of the objectives of this conference," UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame told AFP in an interview.
The presidents of Russia, Turkey and France as well as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are to join the talks, held under the auspices of the UN.
Haftar and Sarraj are also expected, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas confirmed Saturday, ahead of the first gathering of such scale on the conflict since 2018.
After months of combat, which has killed more than 2,000 people, a ceasefire took effect on January 12 backed by both Ankara and Moscow, which is accused of supporting Haftar.
But Saturday's blockade raised fears over the conflict.
The disruption to oil exports is expected to more than halve the country's daily crude production, to 500,000 barrels from 1.3 million barrels, translating to losses of $55 million a day, warned Libya's National Oil Company.
"Our line at the UN is clear. Don't play with petrol because it's the livelihood of the Libyans," warned Salame just hours before the blockade.
Jalal Harchaoui, an expert at the Hague-based Institute Clingendael, said the petrol blockade was part of "the logic of blackmail".
"It can work, but there's also a risk that Washington will react badly" he said. Washington was deeply opposed to any move that could drive up crude prices, he added.
The oil-rich North African country has been torn by fighting between rival armed factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi and toppled his regime.
More recently, Haftar's forces launched an assault in April on Sarraj's troops in Tripoli.
- 'Vicious cycle' -
Although Sarraj's government is recognised by the UN, some powerful players have broken away to stand behind Haftar -- turning a domestic conflict into what is essentially a proxy war with international powers jostling to secure their own interests.
Alarm grew internationally when Ankara ordered in troops early January to help shore up Sarraj. Russia has denied accusations it provided weapons, financing and mercenaries to Haftar.
"We must end this vicious cycle of Libyans calling for the help of foreign powers. Their intervention deepens the divisions among the Libyans," said Salame.
The place of international players should be to "help Libyans develop themselves", he added.
The UN envoy said Sunday's meeting will also seek to "consolidate" the shaky ceasefire.
"Today we only have a truce. We want to transform it into a real ceasefire with monitoring, separation (of rival camps), repositioning of heavy weapons" outside urban zones, he said.
Although the UN has tried repeatedly to broker peace, talks have repeatedly collapsed.
- Erdogan issues warning -
On the eve of the Berlin talks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europe to stand united behind Sarraj's government, as Tripoli's fall could leave "fertile ground" for jihadist groups like IS or Al-Qaeda "to get back on their feet".
Erdogan also played up Europe's fears of a repeat of the 2015 refugee crisis in his commentary for Politico news website, saying further unrest could prompt a new wave of migrants to head for the continent.
Accusing France in particular of siding with Haftar, Erdogan said leaving Libya to the commander would be a "mistake of historic proportions".
France has denied it is backing Haftar.
The European Union is watching the escalating strife on its doorstep with growing alarm, as it counts on Libya as a gatekeeper deterring migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.
In a sign of the regional rivalries at play, Turkey's foreign minister on Friday accused Greece of "sabotaging" peace efforts by hosting Haftar in Athens earlier in the week.
Greece fiercly opposes a security and maritime deal signed between Tripoli and Turkey, and hosted Haftar after it was not invited to the Berlin summit.