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31.12.2019 Europe

France, Egypt urge restraint in Libya's proxy war

By Christina Okello with RFI
REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny
LISTEN DEC 31, 2019
REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

France and Egypt have called for the "greatest restraint" from Libyan and international authorities to avoid escalating Libya's five-year conflict after Turkey announced plans to send troops to Tripoli.

The Libya conflict faces a "risk of escalation". That was the conclusion reached by French President Emmanuel Macron and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during a phone call on Sunday.

Both leaders on Monday urged Libyan and international authorities to avoid escalating the conflict in the north African country, calling on the warring powers to negotiate a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations.

Paris and Cairo are concerned about reports of a possible military intervention by Turkey in Libya, which could add to an escalating proxy battle among regional powers.

Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his readiness to seek parliamentary approval to send troops to Libya, at Tripoli's request.

Inflaming tensions
The troops would help defend Libya's UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) against General Khalifa Haftar's forces, which obtain military support from Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Critics say the Turkish intervention would inflame tribal tensions and reify fracture lines.

The country's civil war that has raged since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has fractured Libya into two halves-- the west ruled by Tripoli and the east ruled from Benghazi by insurgents.

Turkey's intervention would be a "sharp escalation in the conflict," UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame told Le Monde newspaper, adding that the UN's credibility was on the line with the Libyan conflict.

Parliament vote
World powers are due to converge in Berlin next January for an international peace conference to try and hammer out a diplomatic solution in Libya.

The Elysée said Monday that Macron and Sisi had "agreed to work closely to prepare the Berlin conference and to revive inter-Libyan talks."

The two leaders also criticised a recent deal between Turkey and Libya over maritime borders in the eastern Mediterranean, calling it "against the rules of maritime law."

Critics say the deal, part of a security and military cooperation accord with the GNA of prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj, would greatly extend Ankara's territorial claims.

Turkish lawmakers are due to vote on Thursday on whether to give the green light for the deployment of Turkish troops to Libya, despite the growing calls for restraint.

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