Libyan interim PM meets Turkey’s leader to boost ties

ANKARA, Turkey — The head of Libya’s new interim government, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday for talks aimed at boosting cooperation between their nations.

Libya’s interim government, which took power last month, is meant to bring together a country that has been torn apart by civil war for nearly a decade. It is also aims to steer through a general election on Dec. 24.

Turkey has been closely involved in Libya, backing the U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in the capital Tripoli that controlled the west, against the Libyan National Army (LNA), based in Benghazi that controlled the east. Turkey sent military supplies and fighters to Libya, helping to tilt the balance of power in favor of the Tripoli government.

Turkey also signed an agreement with the Tripoli-based government in 2019 to delineate the maritime boundaries between the two countries — a move that angered Greece and Cyprus. Both countries denounced the agreement which they said amounted to a serious breach of international law in disregard of the rights of other eastern Mediterranean countries.

Dbeibah, who is accompanied by a large delegation that includes 14 ministers, will jointly chair the first meeting of the so-called Turkey-Libya High Level Strategic Cooperation Council together with Erdogan.

Turkish media reports said the two countries will aim to increase cooperation in energy and health and will also the discuss the return of Turkish companies to complete stalled projects in the oil-rich North African nation.

Dbeibah has been trying to strike a balance between Turkey and Greece, following Athens’ concerns over the maritime deal with the Tripoli-based administration had struck with Turkey. Dbeibah has said his government is willing to establish a joint Libyan-Greek committee to resume negotiations to set the sea boundary between the two countries and demarcate an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. The country was in recent years split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.