With Putin in Turkey on Wednesday ceremonially launching the much-anticipated offshore pipeline TurkStream, which will supply Russian gas to Turkey and southern Europe, it's actually events in Libya and Syria that are at the top of contentious discussions.
But there appears to have been a breakthrough which may or may not have any real impact on the Libyan war, just days after Turkey controversially ordered troops to Tripoli to the condemnation of pro-Haftar forces and its backers Egypt, the UAE, and Russia.
The Turkish and Russian presidents have called for a ceasefire in Libya that will start from Saturday (Jan.12) midnight, according to Turkish FM Cavusoglu, cited in Turkish state media.
The two sides issued a statement Wednesday calling for Gen. Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) to immediately come to the negotiating table.
As Middle East Eye reports:
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said he hopes the ceasefire will embolden the Berlin process seeking to resolve the conflict.
“In a joint statement Presidents Erdogan and Putin urge parties to stop violence” Cavusoglu said. Lavrov added that they expect neighbouring countries to actively join the Berlin process to help end the conflict.
It's only the GNA which is recognized by the United Nations, and at least still on paper the United States as well — though Trump over the past half-year has issued public praise for Haftar, a dual US citizen considered close to the CIA.
The crisis has escalated over the past months as Haftar has declared his forces are in the "final offensive" to wrest control of the capital Tripoli from the GNA. On Saturday an LNA airstrike slammed into a military academy in Tripoli, killing at least 30 and injuring nearly 40.
Previewing the urgency of the Libya matter as Putin was set to meet with Erdogan, Turkish media noted:
Perhaps topping the agenda is Libya – Turkey has deployed troops to support the U.N.-approved government in Tripoli against an assault by the Moscow-backed Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar.
Russia has told Ankara that Turkish soldiers should not oppose Haftar’s militias, Deutsche Welle said citing one unidentified official. Erdoğan will assure Putin at Wednesday’s meeting that Turkish soldiers will not enter combat, other officials say.
But we doubt such "assurances" proved enough, given Turkey is already supplying the GNA with advanced military hardware such as drones to push back Haftar's own small air force, which includes MiG fighters.
The Turkish and Russian joint statement further called on the US and Iran to "de-escalate tensions and prioritize diplomacy" at a moment the region is on the brink of war after the overnight Iranian ballistic missile retaliation on US bases in Iraq.