German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held joint talks in Istanbul today on topics ranging from the conflicts in Syria and Libya to the refugee crisis.
As part of Merkel’s visit the leaders inaugurated a new Turkish-German university in the historic city.
Erdogan’s tone on the Libyan issue and conflict, however, was serious in his warning that “If calm is not established as soon as possible, the atmosphere of chaos in Libya will affect all the Mediterranean basin.”
He also brought up the ongoing nine-year civil war in Syria, saying that leaders and powers on the world stage did not act quickly enough in dealing with it and that the same should not be the case with Libya. “We hope the international community will not make the mistakes it made in Syria,” Erdogan said.
Merkel’s arrival in Istanbul to meet Erdogan comes almost a week after she hosted the Berlin Conference, which brought together world leaders and representatives from a variety of countries to discuss the conflict in Libya. The leaders of the two rival sides – Fayez Al-Sarraj of the internationally backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) – were also present, with a solid international position and a proposed ceasefire both failing to be negotiated by the end of the conference.
This comes at a time of increasing tensions between the EU and Turkey, with the two holding disagreements on a myriad of issues including Libya, Syria, and the Eastern Mediterranean dispute. Erdogan’s recent signing of deals with the GNA and its military assistance to the struggling UN-backed government has raised controversy from some European nations who either support and sympathise with Haftar or are uncomfortable with Turkey’s military involvement in the conflict.
Turkey’s third military incursion into Syria – Operation Peace Spring – in October last year aiming to create a safe zone for refugees also resulted in international outrage, as well as the Republic’s drilling operations for natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean which prompted the EU to impose sanctions on Ankara.
The EU, in turn, has disappointed Turkey by not fulfilling its part of the refugee deal in 2016, which obligates the Union to grant Turkey €6 billion ($6.6 billion) in return for keeping refugees from Syria and other countries from entering Europe. When Erdogan reminded the EU of this towards the end of last year, he warned the Union that Turkey is unable to bear another wave of refugees and threatened that it would have no choice but to “open the gates” into the continent if the EU does not help.