FILE PHOTO: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to media after attending Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo
September 18, 2020
By Tuvan Gumrukcu and Orhan Coskun
ANKARA (Reuters) – President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday Turkey was upset that Libya’s internationally recognised Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, an ally, wants to quit next month and Ankara may hold talks with his government on the issue in the coming week.
Sarraj announced on Wednesday his intention to step down by the end of October. The move could feed political tensions in Tripoli amid new efforts to find a political solution to the country’s conflict.
“A development like this, hearing such news, has been upsetting for us,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, adding that Turkish delegations may hold talks with Sarraj’s government in the coming week.
“With these meetings, God willing we will turn this issue towards the direction it needs to go,” he said.
Sarraj is head of the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, while eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). His departure could lead to infighting among senior GNA figures.
The civil war has drawn in regional and international powers and Turkey supports the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia back the LNA. Turkey helped the GNA turn back a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli in June.
A Turkish official told Reuters that Sarraj’s resignation announcement was the second recent surprise for Ankara in Libya after a ceasefire announcement last month.
Sarraj’s government declared a ceasefire on Aug. 21 and the leader of a rival parliament in eastern Libya also appealed for a halt to hostilities, offering hope for a deescalation of the conflict across Libya since a 2011 uprising.
“We would prefer for Sarraj to remain in his post because under his leadership a united Libya that has resolved its issues could emerge,” the official said.
“If Sarraj does not remain in office, there are some names who are involved in the processes and can take the GNA forward. These are, of course, Libya’s own issues, but Turkey may provide some support,” he added.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrucku; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Jonathan Spicer, William Maclean)