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Erdogan Says Turkey Ready To 'Teach A Lesson' To Libya's Haftar

Updated

Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar (left) shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before talks in Moscow on January 13.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will "teach a lesson" to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar if his forces continue attacks against the North African country's internationally recognized government.

Erdogan issued the threat in a televised speech on January 14, after General Haftar and the head of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, Fayez al-Sarraj, left Moscow without reaching a cease-fire deal to end months of fighting.

The two rivals didn't meet directly but their delegations on January 13 held about seven hours of closed-door talks with top diplomats and military officials from Russia and Turkey.

Libya has been torn by violence since longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

NATO-member Turkey has been backing the GNA, while Russia supports Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is trying to capture the capital, Tripoli.

A tentative cease-fire that came into force on January 12 saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes in Libya, although both sides have accused each other of violating it as skirmishes continued around Tripoli.

After the January 13 meetings in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Sarraj had signed a draft truce agreement but that Haftar requested more time to consider it.

The next morning, Russia's Foreign Ministry announced Haftar had left the Russian capital without signing the document. Russian news agencies reported that Sarraj had also departed.

Russia's Defense Ministry later said that Haftar had taken two days to discuss the agreements reached in Moscow with his allies, Russian news agencies reported.

But speaking at a meeting of his party in Ankara, Erdogan said the "putschist Haftar ran away" from the Russian capital.

"Despite this, we find the talks in Moscow were positive as they showed the true face of the putschist Haftar to the international community," the Turkish president said.

He said the issue would now be discussed at a Berlin summit on Libya planned for January 19.

Addressing at a press conference during a visit to Sri Lanka earlier in the day, Lavrov said Moscow would continue pushing for a permanent truce agreement between the warring sides in Libya's conflict.

Turkey and Russia have both been criticized by UN and Western officials who say their efforts to arm their allies have led to an intensification of the violence.

Erdogan announced earlier this month that he had dispatched military elements to Libya to ensure stability for the GNA.

UN experts and diplomats say that Russian military contractors in recent months have deployed alongside the LNA.

With reporting by AFP, TASS, and Reuters
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