The militia of warlord Khalifa Haftar cannot win the ongoing conflict in Libya, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
“Taking back the coastline from Tripoli to Tunisia, recapturing international airports, and progress made from air and land operations shows essentially that Haftar cannot win this war,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview.
Haftar’s militias recently stepped up their attacks, but the Libyan government under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj began to repel them with a counter-attack and captured key positions, said Cavusoglu.
“The Haftar side doesn’t want a political solution in Libya, nor do the countries backing Haftar such as the UAE, Egypt, and Russian-backed Wagner [Group] mercenaries,” he added.
Following the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya’s government was founded in 2015 under a UN-led political agreement.
The Libyan government has been under attack by Haftar’s forces since April 2019, with more than 1,000 killed in the violence.
On recent developments in the US, Cavusoglu called for clear-headedness amid protests over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died last week after being pinned down by a white police officer.
“It is unacceptable for police to kill any person in such a way, regardless of race or religion,” said Cavusoglu.
“Justice must be done in a way that will relieve everyone’s conscience regarding the police who committed this murder,” he added.
But he also stressed that the protests turning into vandalism would be both inappropriate and dangerous.
“No matter who it is, we do not support such vandalism, not just in the US but also in other countries,” he added.
On US President Donald Trump saying he would declare far-left anti-fascist group Antifa a terror organization, Cavusoglu referred to recent press reports on links between Antifa and the terrorist YPG/PKK, urging the US to take a similar stance against Antifa when it attacks Turkish soldiers jointly with the YPG/PKK.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the European Union – has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
‘Turkish activities in E.Med in line with international law’
On Ankara’s drill ships working in the Eastern Mediterranean since last year, Cavusoglu said Turkish activities in the region are in line with international law.
Saying that Turkey’s aim in the Eastern Mediterranean is to cooperate with everyone, he added that the Greek Cypriots must “first agree with the Turkish Cypriot side on the fair sharing of wealth around Cyprus.”
The top diplomat also stressed that any agreement on the Eastern Mediterranean without Turkish participation would be “null and void.”
“Any cooperation with Turkey absent will eventually not yield any results. We proved this via the steps we took. We cannot allow a fait accompli. You will come to us if you want to cooperate in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he explained.
Hagia Sophia Quran reading
Cavusoglu also addressed Greece taking exception to a special Quran reading last week at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
Marking the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul, a surah (chapter) from the Quran was recited at the Hagia Sophia museum, which served as a mosque in Ottoman times.
Turkey “will not ask for permission from anyone to recite from the Quran or make calls to prayer,” said Cavusoglu.
Slamming Greece’s objections to the Quran reading, the foreign minister also noted that Athens is the only European capital lacking a mosque, despite local Muslims’ need for one.
Hagia Sophia is the “property of the Republic of Turkey,” said Cavusoglu.
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic also continuing to threaten the lives of many across the world, Cavusoglu said Turkey is continuing to bring back its citizens who want to return.
“We have evacuated more than 75,000 of our citizens from 126 countries to Turkey. This is the biggest evacuation operation in the history of the Republic of Turkey,” he told.
The pandemic has killed nearly 381,000 people worldwide, with total infections reaching almost 6.4 million, while more than 2.74 million people have recovered from the disease, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.
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