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Libya's Sarraj,Turkey FM to meet in Algeria for talks

By AFP - Jan 06,2020 - Last updated at Jan 06,2020

This handout photo released by the official Algeria Press Service on Monday shows Algeria's President Abdelaziz Tebboune (right) shaking hands with Libya's UN-recognised Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj after their meeting in Algiers on Monday for talks on the Libyan crisis (AFP photo)

ALGIERS — The head of Libya’s UN-recognised government was in Algeria on Monday to discuss increasing tensions in his country, ahead of a visit by the Turkish foreign minister.

Since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longstanding Muammar Qadhafi, Libya has been plunged into chaos. It is now divided between the GNA and rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Tensions escalated last year when eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to capture the capital Tripoli, seat of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

The GNA sought help from Turkey where parliament passed a bill allowing the government to send troops to Libya to shore up the Tripoli government, and on Sunday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said soldiers had begun deploying in the north African country.

The Algerian presidency said GNA Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj arrived on Monday at the head of a high-ranking delegation to “discuss ways to resolve the difficult situation” in Libya, the official APS news agency reported.

He was due to meet newly-elected Algerian President Abdelmadjid, it said.

Algerian state television said the GNA’s foreign and interior ministers, Mohamed Taha Siala and Fathi Bachagha, met their Algerian counterparts Sabri Boukadoum and Kamel Beldjoud.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was also expected in Algiers later in the day for a two-day visit, according to his ministry.

On Thursday, Algerian foreign minister Boukadoum announced “several initiatives in favour of a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis” and reaffirmed his country’s opposition to foreign interference in Libya.

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia back Haftar, while the GNA is supported by Turkey and Qatar.

Algeria shares nearly 1,000 kilometres of border with Libya and 1,400 kilometres with Mali.

After taking office in December, Tebboune convened Algeria’s top security body to discuss the situation at its borders, notably with Libya.

Forces of Haftar on Monday said they had taken control of the coastal city of Sirte from factions loyal to the Tripoli government.

Sirte, some 450 kilometres east of the capital Tripoli, had been held by forces allied with the UN-GNA since 2016.

But on Monday, a spokesman for the rival faction, Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), said the city had fallen to his fighters.

“Sirte has been totally liberated... from terrorist groups,” Ahmad Al Mesmari, spokesman for Haftar’s forces, said on television following an operation that lasted just hours.

Haftar’s LNA earlier Monday said on social media they were “steadily advancing towards the heart of Sirte” after seizing control of Ghardabiya airport on the city’s outskirts.

The statement said the operation aimed to “purge Sirte of armed militias”.

The airport, located in an airforce base, fell into LNA hands after “forces tasked with protecting it surrendered completely with their equipment” to Haftar’s self-styled army, the statement added.

“Clashes are underway” in the southern part of Sirte and in its coastal area, the statement said, adding that some enemy fighters had fled while others were captured by the advancing LNA forces.

Forces loyal to the UN-recognised GNA confirmed they had come under attack in Sirte.

“We are dealing with Haftar’s terrorist militias,” they said in a statement on Facebook, adding that “mercenaries” from Chad were fighting alongside Haftar’s forces.

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