Government depends on support from key allies and Haftar after failing to participate in the Libya Conference.
Athens.- (GreekNewsOnline, ANA-MPA, Reuters)
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday spoke on the phone with the president of the European Council Charles Michel at the latter’s initiative and with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
According to government sources, all the issues referring to Greece were discussed with focus on Turkey, Libya and the Berlin Conference.
During the talks, it was reaffirmed that the president of the European Council is the guardian of the conclusions reached at the EU Summit on 12 and 13 December 2019.
Later, Mitsotakis spoke with Ursula von der Leyen that will be present, along with Charles Michel, at the Berlin Conference.
The same sources said that also in this phone call was reaffirmed that the defence of the European Council’s conclusions framework and the Greek positions will be expressed by the EU representatives at the Berlin Conference that will be held on Sunday.
Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias on Saturday spoke on the phone with the Foreign Minister of France Jean-Yves Le Drian and discussed the developments in Libya.
On Friday evening, Dendias spoke on the phone and discussed the same issue with his UAE counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Government spokesman Stelios Petsas in an interview with ANT1 TV on Saturday said that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed his discontent to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday over the fact that Greece was not invited to the Berlin Conference despite it have requested it.
Mitsotakis who spoke on the phone with the German Chancellor on Friday, “reminded to Merkel as he had reminded to all the leaders of the EU state-members, to the European Council president Charles Michel and to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in letters he have sent to them, that Greece has vital interests in the region and that will claim them by defending its sovereign rights in any possible way. Moreover, he reminded to them the conclusion of the EU Summit in December 2019 on Libya and the ‘memoranda’ between Turkey and Saraj government which have been characterised invalid and non-existent” added Petsas.
The government spokesman said that it is clear that Germany, as hosting country, did not wish the discussion to include the sea zone issues.
“It wants the conference to clearly focus on the issue of political solution in Libya” Petsas said and reminded what Prime Minister said in his interview on Thursday, “that we will do whatever necessary to protect our sovereign rights including the veto”.
Asked on the Turkish provocations, he said that we will not accept any violation of our sovereign rights adding that we will do whatever necessary to defend them. “This is our clear position to our neighbouring country and to all the international actors” he clarified.
Greece’s position reflects those of the United Nations, reiterated by the most recent European Council, which includes a ceasefire in Libya and the recognition that the memorandums signed by Turkey and the Tripoli government on maritime zones in the East Mediterranean are invalid, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said on Friday night, in an interview to ERT 1 television.
Speaking ahead of the Berlin conference on Libya on Sunday, Dendias said, “We always speak having in mind both our own interests and our obligations as EU member states, which is a position found in the resolutions of the UN Security Council, and the positions described in the latest European Council: a ceasefire and the recognition of the invalidity of the two memorandums between the government of Tripoli and that of Turkey.”
Dendias also noted that chief of the Libyan National Army, Commander Khalifa Haftar, who visited Athens on his way to Berlin, also wanted the two memorandums to be abolished. He said he did not know whether Haftar would include this as a term to a ceasefire. “It is absolutely certain that Haftar’s side seeks the abolition of these two memorandums as damaging to Libya and Libyan citizens,” Dendias said, “and their goal is to abolish them. The same position is held by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Cyprus, Israel, France, the United States and the EU.”
Giving the background of the commander’s visit to Athens, the Greek FM said that he had first met Haftar in Benghazi and had agreed Haftar would pay an official visit to Athens. This time was the best time for him to come, Dendias asserted, adding that a meeting with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis would contribute to the interests of both sides.
Asked why Greece was not invited to the Berlin conference, the minister explained that “the process for this conference began nearly five years ago. Greece had then chosen not to participate in initiatives organized by others, and the then government held the view that it would create its own initiatives. Greece had also not attended the initiatives related to Syria.”
The current government, he said, “began the process to be included, but it was too late. In my opinion it was a mistake that the German side did not accept our late participation, despite the efforts made by myself, the prime minister and the Greek political world overall when we all realized what our absence in the events taking place in Libya would mean.”
The present government tried to clinch an invitation in July, when it came to power, he said, “but Germany made a mistake by not accepting us.” He added however that what is important now is that Germany and the EU leadership “fulfil their obligation to defend the European position – what was established in the latest European Council, which is acceptable by all countries. It was a unanimous decision and incorporates the obligation to recognize the illegality of the two memorandums. Germany cannot take its European hat off and not seek the abolition of these two memorandums.”
Dendias reaffirmed that Greece wants peace to be established in Libya, but the kind of peace that is stable, not a temporary ceasefire.
He said he was not expecting great changes from the Sunday meeting, but “Berlin is a phase, it’s not the end of a process.” What is expected from this phase, and what Greece supported Commander Haftar towards, was “a ceasefire and to reach an initial understanding that foreign elements and foreign powers must be removed from Libya.”
“Turkey is the foreign power most involved in Libya,” he noted and the abolition of the memorandums is necessary, as they are “an umbrella of the Turkish invasion of Libya.”
“We expect the Berlin conference,” Dendias said, “to be a step in the peace process in Libya. We are in contact with all players involved in the issue and hope we have added even a small contribution to peace and stability in the region.”
The Greek Foreign Minister stressed that “Greece is not taking action in order to turn against Turkey; it is taking action first of all to serve its own national interests, and to serve the European interests, and to serve peace and stability in the region. Greece believes we can achieve benefits for all the peoples of the region if we all follow the rules of good neighborhood and of international law.”
HAFTAR IN ATHENS
The chief of the Libyan National Army, Commander Khalifa Haftar, briefed Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Friday about the situation in Libya and outlined his intentions ahead of the Berlin Conference on Libya, government sources said. They were referring to a meeting between Haftar and Mitsotakis held earlier, at the Greek premier’s offices in parliament.
The Libyan military commander, the sources said, spoke in detail about the counterproductive role played by foreign intervention in his country at military and political level. He said that the Libyan people should be left alone to decide on their future via a nationwide assembly that excluded no one.
The same sources noted that Haftar especially condemned Turkey’s negative interventionist role, stating that both the memoranda signed by Turkey and Sarraj government were invalid, because they violate international law and because they have been signed by a government that has not been empowered to sign them.
Mitsotakis, the same sources said, had noted the need for a political solution to the Libyan crisis and had urged Haftar to adopt a constructive stance at the Berlin Conference. He underlined that a ceasefire is the necessary first step for restoring security and the withdrawal of the mercenaries, something that will allow the start of the process for a political resolution.
Finally, the sources said that the discussion had covered in depth all matters regarding the wider security environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and noted “Mr. Haftar’s clearcut position” concerning the invalidity of the Sarraj-Turkey memorandum and his undertaking that he will proceed to delimitate maritime zones with Greece.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Europe to support its work in Libya, where it is providing military support to the internationally-recogniζed government, if it wants to end the conflict there.
Erdogan made his remarks in a column published on the Politico website on Saturday, ahead of a summit in Berlin on Sunday that will try to stabilise the country.
At the meeting, Germany and the United Nations will push rival Libyan camps fighting over the capital, Tripoli, to agree to a truce and monitoring mechanism as first steps towards peace, diplomats and a draft communique said.
Turkey supports the government of Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli and describes Khalifa Haftar, who heads the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA), as a coup plotter.
“Keeping in mind that Europe is less interested in providing military support to Libya, the obvious choice is to work with Turkey, which has already promised military assistance,” Erdogan wrote.
“We will train Libya’s security forces and help them combat terrorism, human trafficking and other serious threats against international security,” he added.
Erdogan said that if Libya’s legitimate government were to fall Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda “will find a fertile ground to get back on their feet”.