Leaders of Russia, Turkey discuss fighting in Libya

Khalifa Hifter

FILE – In this Aug. 14, 2017 file photo, rebel Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter, meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia. Heavy fighting raged over the past 24 hours between rebel Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter, who is attempting to take control of the capital Tripoli, and an array of militias loosely allied with the U.N.-supported government based there, officials said Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. The fresh bout of fighting comes after Hifter, the leader of the self-styled Libyan National Army, declared Thursday that the “zero hour” of the battle for Tripoli had begun, nearly eight months since he began his offensive to take the city.(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

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MOSCOW (AP) — The leaders of Russia and Turkey discussed the fighting in Libya in a phone call Tuesday, the Kremlin said.

It said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voiced their readiness to help establish contacts between the warring parties and expressed support for mediation efforts by the United Nations and Germany.

Libya plunged into turmoil after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The country has been split into two parts, with a weak U.N.-supported government led by Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and a rival administration in the east led by the self-styled Libyan National Army chief, Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Hifter on Thursday declared a final push to take Tripoli from Sarraj’s government, unleashing heavy clashes on the southern edges of the city.

Sarraj’s government has been backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar, while Hifter’s army has been supported by France and some key Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Russia has maintained contacts with both conflicting parties in Libya, but the government in Tripoli has recently charged that Russian military contractors were fighting alongside Hifter — which Moscow has denied.

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