Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday he would “teach a lesson” to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar if he resumed fighting after abandoning ceasefire talks in Moscow.
Haftar left Moscow yesterday without signing a peace deal aimed at ending nine months of fighting with the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
“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 issue would now be discussed at talks in Berlin on Sunday attended by European, North African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as the UN, EU, Africa Union and Arab League.
“The putschist Haftar did not sign the ceasefire. He first said yes, but later unfortunately he left Moscow, he fled Moscow,” Erdogan said.
“Despite this, we find the talks in Moscow were positive as they showed the true face of the putschist Haftar to the international community.”
Meanwhile, the UN said yesterday heavy clashes have spurred a growing exodus of migrants from Libya, but nearly 1,000 intercepted at sea have been forced to return to the war-ravaged country since January 1.
Since the start of the year, as many as 1,100 migrants have left Libya by sea, according to the International Organization for Migration, adding that a majority had been sent back to the country and detained.
“At least 953 migrants, among them 136 women and 85 children, have been returned to Libyan shores in the first two weeks of 2020,” spokeswoman Safa Msehli told reporters in Geneva.
“Most were disembarked in Tripoli and all were taken to detention centres,” she added.
At the behest of Italy, Libya’s coastguard routinely blocks migrants from reaching Europe.
Rights groups charge that Libya picks up migrants in the Mediterranean and brings them back to overcrowded detention centres, where many have been victims of abuse and forced labour.