President Erdogan said the "putschist Haftar ran away" from Moscow after Monday's peace talks between him and the head of the Tripoli-based government.

Warlord Khalifa Haftar shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before talks in Moscow, Russia on January 13, 2020.
Warlord Khalifa Haftar shakes hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov before talks in Moscow, Russia on January 13, 2020. (Reuters)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday he would "teach a lesson" to warlord Khalifa Haftar if he resumes fighting in Libya after abandoning ceasefire talks in Moscow. 

"We will not hesitate to teach a deserved lesson to the putschist Haftar if he continues his attacks on the country's legitimate administration and our brothers in Libya," Erdogan told a meeting of his party in Ankara in a televised speech. 

Erdogan said the "putschist Haftar ran away" from Moscow after Monday's peace talks between him and Fayez al Sarraj, the head of the UN-recognised government, failed to lead to an open-ended ceasefire to end their nine-month conflict.

Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, "Turkey did and will do its part for a ceasefire and peace in Libya under the leadership of our president. But in the current context, it is clear who wants peace or war, who wants or doesn't want to forge unity in Libya."

No deal after Moscow talks

Libya's warring sides made some progress at indirect peace talks in Moscow on Monday but failed to agree on an open-ended ceasefire to end a nine-month war over the capital Tripoli.

In talks that lasted about eight hours, mediators Russia and Turkey urged the rivals to sign a binding ceasefire and pave the way for a settlement that would stabilise the North African country mired in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Sarraj, who heads Libya's UN-backed government in Tripoli which has struggled to fend off an offensive by the eastern-based militia, signed the ceasefire agreement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Haftar left Moscow without signing the agreement, Russia's foreign ministry confirmed on Tuesday.

Haftar on Monday evening asked until Tuesday morning to look over the agreement, but left the Russian capital without signing, Russia's foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

In a sign the militia might continue its offensive, it said on an official website that it was "ready and determined" to achieve victory in the conflict.

Pro-militia social media posts have called for rallies in support of Haftar on Tuesday in the main eastern city of Benghazi.

The Russo-Turkish push, which involved laborious indirect contacts between the two Libyan delegations, is the latest attempt to end chaos in the oil-producing country.

Russia's TASS news agency reported that Serraj had refused to engage in direct talks with Haftar, forcing Russian and Turkish diplomats to act as go-betweens.

The two men last met in Abu Dhabi in February 2019 before talks broke down over a power-sharing deal and Haftar moved his troops on Tripoli in April, expanding his control beyond the east and south.

Speaking alongside Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Ankara, Erdogan said on Monday his country was working to ensure a ceasefire in Libya becomes permanent.

He said he hoped the Moscow talks would form the basis of discussions at a summit in Berlin on Sunday, which he said he would attend with Conte and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Saturday she planned to host such a summit after holding talks with Putin.

The fight for Tripoli

Turkey backs Sarraj, while Russian military contractors have been deployed alongside Haftar's militia, which is also backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan.

The Tripoli war has wrecked Libya's economy and risks disrupting oil production and triggering flows of African migrants trying to reach Europe by boats with the help of smugglers exploiting the chaos.

The Moscow talks come after a ceasefire, initiated by Turkey and Russia, saw a lull in heavy fighting and air strikes on Sunday, though both factions accused each other of violating that truce as skirmishes continued around Tripoli.

Reuters journalists in Tripoli said it was quiet in the centre on Monday and that they could hear no clashes or shelling. But late at night more shelling could be heard.

Mitiga airport, the capital's only functioning airport, had resumed operations, a Reuters witness said. Flights were suspended earlier this month due to rockets falling nearby.

Haftar's militiamen have not been able to breach Tripoli's defences but have in recent weeks made some small progress with help from Russian mercenaries, residents say. That has pushed Turkey, which has business interests in the country, to deploy soldiers to Libya to help the Tripoli government.

Source: Reuters