Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said “some agreements” have been reached with his US counterpart Donald Trump that could herald a “new era” in the conflict in Libya.
Turkey supports the internationally recognised government of Fayez al-Sarraj, whose forces have in recent weeks driven back an assault on the capital, Tripoli, by the forces of renegade commander Khalifa Haftar.
While the US officially supports Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), Haftar is supported by Washington’s allies – Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia – as well as France and Russia.
“After our call this evening, there could be a new era between the US and Turkey regarding the (Libya) process,” Erdogan told state broadcaster TRT on Monday.
“We reached some agreements during our call”, he said, and alluded to a “possible step” the two countries could take together, but offered no details.
A White House statement said Trump and Erdogan discussed the war in the north African country, as well as Syria and the wider eastern Mediterranean region, but gave no details.
Turkey’s support for the GNA has helped shift the balance in the country, helping the Tripoli-based forces score a string of military victories in the country’s west and around Tripoli, inflicting a heavy blow to Haftar’s year-long campaign to capture the capital.
Last week, GNA forces also recaptured Tripoli’s airport, gaining the upper hand against Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the country’s east – the seat of the rival administration.
On Monday, the GNA’s forces launched offensive to seize the strategic city of Sirte, as it rejected a unilateral ceasefire proposed over the weekend by Egypt, a Haftar ally.
Egypt had called for a ceasefire starting Monday, as part of an initiative which also proposed an elected leadership council for Libya. Haftar’s other supporters, Russia and the UAE, welcomed the proposal.
But Erdogan, whose support for the GNA’s forces helped change the course of the war, said the GNA would continue fighting to seize the coastal city of Sirte and the Jufra airbase further south in a strategic region of the oil-exporting country.
“Now the goal is to take over the whole Sirte area and get it done. These are areas with the oil wells, these are of great importance,” the Turkish president said.
Erdogan said he would also discuss Moscow’s role in Libya with President Vladimir Putin, including what he said was the supply of Russian planes and Pantsir air defences to Haftar’s forces.
“They have Pantsirs there, they sent 19 warplanes to Libya,” Erdogan said. “After talking with him, we can plan ahead.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) said an “armed force” had entered the Sharara oilfield and told employees to shut the oilfield, hours after maintenance operations started.
The NOC added in a statement that it had told employees not to obey the order regarding field operations.
The statement did not specify which group the “armed force” belonged to.
The Hamada pipeline running from Libya’s Sharara oilfield has been reopened, the Petroleum Facilities Guards said in a short statement on Friday, after it was closed during a blockade on oil exports.