When Russia's President Putin attended the launch ceremony for the TurkStream natural gas pipeline this week, at the top of the list of difficult geopolitical crises addressed with Turkey's Erdogan was the rapidly unfolding Libya war.
Some analysts say that the new Libya conflict and war for control of the oil and gas rich North African country between Benghazi-based Gen. Khalifa Haftar and the UN-recognized GNA in Tripoli is set to dominate world headlines in 2020 alongside the US-Iran showdown. Pundits were surprised when on Wednesday the Turkish and Russian presidents agreed to jointly issue an urgent call for ceasefire in Libya proposed to start from Saturday (Jan.12) midnight.
That surprise cooperative agreement (given Russia and Turkey back separate sides of the war) to come to the negotiating table was swiftly rejected Thursday by Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA). This as the death toll continues to climb as Haftar is vowing the ongoing siege of Tripoli is the "final offensive" to wrest control of the city. Haftar went so far as the call his offensive a war against "terrorists" that cannot cease until definitive victory.
In a video statement, Haftar's military spokesman said, "We welcome [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's call for a ceasefire. However, our fight against terrorist organizations that seized Tripoli and received support of some countries will continue until the end," according to Al Jazeera.
At least 1,000 people have been killed since the LNA's military offensive began months ago — though fighting has been sporadic for years — with at least 5,000 others wounded, according to United Nations estimates.
Meanwhile, Turkish troops are said to have touched down in the Libyan capital earlier this week after Turkey's parliament voted through a plan for military assistance to the besieged GNA. This after reports that Ankara has actually sent Turkish-backed Syrian militants with the FSA as mercenaries to assist in the campaign.
Currently pro-Haftar forces are claiming to be a mere few kilometers away from the center of Tripoli. “The Libyan Army is now in Tripoli, and they are positioned only a few kilometers from the city center,” an LNA military spokesman said in an Arabic statement Thursday.
Also crucial is that days ago the LNA said it captured Sirte, held by forces loyal to the GNA since 2016, which lies some 280 miles east of the capital Tripoli, and was an important highly modernized city previously favored for development under Gaddafi before his 2011 summary execution by NATO-backed 'rebels'.
The seizure of Sirte, now confirmed under Gen. Haftar's control, is considered a major blow to the Tripoli unity government.
But a military stalemate is likely to continue, considering Turkey has vowed to prevent a Haftar takeover of the country over the objections of his backers like Egypt and the UAE. For this reason the LNA has been given orders to shoot at any Turkish plane or ship which enters Libyan space. Already Turkish drones have reportedly been downed on a couple of occasions over the past month.