The risk of an internationalization of the conflict in Libya gives rise to a diplomatic crossover unprecedented since the beginning in April of the offensive of Marshal Khalifa Haftar on Tripoli, seat of the Union Government (GNA), while Ankara and Moscow have called for a ceasefire on Sunday.
The diplomatic ballet picked up speed after Turkey announced that it would send troops in support of the UN-recognized GNA, raising fears of a « new Syria ».
On Wednesday, Ankara and Moscow, who have established themselves as key players in Libya in recent months, called for a cease-fire on January 12 at 12 a.m., despite the diverging interests of the two countries on this issue.
Ankara claims that 2,500 Russian mercenaries are fighting alongside Haftar, which Moscow denies. The Eastern strongman is also supported by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Turkey’s regional rivals.
GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj on Wednesday evening « welcomed » the call for a ceasefire in a statement, but did not give a clear answer.
In the other camp, « there has been no comment so far » on Marshal Haftar, according to his spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari.
The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, welcomed the Russian-Turkish initiative and urged all parties « to immediately end all military operations in Libya, » said a statement.
Algiers is active
Salamé is working on organizing an international conference on Libya in Berlin in January, with the aim of ending foreign interference in Libya, while several countries are working to find a way out of the crisis.
After welcoming the head of the GNA and the Turkish Minister for Foreign Affairs on Monday, Algeria, which shares nearly 1,000 km of borders with Libya, receives heads of Italian and Egyptian diplomats on Thursday.
Anxious to remain “equidistant” from the two warring camps in Libya, Algiers rejects “all foreign interference” and urges “all the Libyan components and parties (…) to return quickly to the process of inclusive national dialogue”.
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, visited him, in Tunisia, another neighbor of Libya, where he stressed that “the risk of escalation in progress in Libya threatens to destabilize the whole from the region, from the Maghreb to the Sahel ”.
The Libyan dossier was also at the center of a meeting Wednesday in Cairo between the French minister and his Italian, Egyptian, Cypriot and Greek counterparts, but this meeting again illustrated the divisions of the international community on the conflict in Libya.
In a statement that the Italian diplomacy chief Luigi Di Maiore did not sign, Paris, Cairo, Nicosia and Athens judged « null and void » the controversial agreements signed in November between Ankara and Tripoli, including one allowing Turkey to assert rights over large areas in the eastern Mediterranean.
The first agreement concerns military cooperation between the GNA and Ankara, which allows Turkey to send troops to Libya.
Italy, historically linked to Libya by a common history of colonization, is also trying to regain control of the Libyan dossier.
Analysts say that Rome, which was in the midst of a power struggle with Paris, takes a dim view of the growing role in Libya of other countries like Turkey and Russia.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte received Marshal Haftar in Rome on Wednesday and called on him to stop his offensive.
He also warned him of « the risks to the stability of the entire region, » according to a statement from the Italian government.
According to the Libyan and Italian press, Mr. Conté tried to organize a meeting between Haftar and Sarraj.
But when he learned that Haftar preceded him in Rome, Mr. Sarraj who came from Brussels, changed course halfway to return to Tripoli, according to the same sources.
In Brussels, the European Union promised on Wednesday Sarraj to « intensify his efforts » for a peaceful solution in Libya.
« The EU fully supports the Berlin process and all United Nations initiatives aimed at finding a comprehensive political solution to the crisis in Libya, » said a statement from the European Council.
On the ground, fighting is still raging south of Tripoli where the pro-Haftar are still trying to enter the city, haloed by their lightning conquest Monday from Sirte, a strategic lock between east and west of Libya.