A visit by high-level Russian officials to Turkey was postponed at the last minute, a highly unusual move that came just hours before it was due to take place. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu were set to arrive in Turkey on Sunday as part of a major high-level delegation to discuss regional issues, Russia’s TASS reported. The visit was to come days after Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan held a phone call with US President Donald Trump, and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu ordered the US to do more in Libya.
Turkey has played an increasing role in Libya, leveraging energy contracts with the government in Tripoli to intervene in a civil war. Turkey now wants the US to work for it in Libya, telling Washington that Turkey is against Russia’s role there.
Russia supports the opposition in Libya. But Turkey also wants to host Russia to make a deal on Libya, much like Turkey buys S-400 air defense from Russia but says it wants the US to pressure Russia in Libya. In each case, Ankara plays both sides.
The goal now is for Turkey to host the Russian delegation on June 14 and hammer out several regional issues for “mutual interest,” Russia says. Ankara prefers to work with Moscow, which it has worked with closely on Syrian issues for years, than with the US. Turkey has accused America of “training terrorists” in Syria.
In October 2019, Turkey ordered the US to leave a part of eastern Syria so Ankara could invade. Then Turkey signed a deal with Russia for joint patrols, and the Syrian regime was able to get back a huge swath of Syria.
Now it appears that Turkey and Russia may come up with a deal for Libya. They also have to discuss rising tensions in northwest Syria where they have a ceasefire. In Syria, Turkey supports the opposition and Russia supports the government, whereas in Libya the support is reversed.
Russia has had the upper hand in Syria, while Turkey has been successful in Libya. Turkey has recruited Syrian rebel fighters to go to Libya to fight its war there so Turkish troops don’t need to be deployed.
Egypt, which supports the opposition in Libya, offered a ceasefire in there, but Turkey does not seem interested.