Turkish defence minister in Malta meeting with Bartolo on Libya situation

Meeting discusses growing instability in Eastern Mediterranean after Operation Irini incursions

Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar (left) with Evarist Bartolo
Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar (left) with Evarist Bartolo

Malta’s foreign and EU affairs minister Evarist Bartolo on Saturday held a meeting with the Turkish Minister of Defense Hulusi Akar, who is in Malta on a short visit.

The meeting is considered important in the light of Malta’s overtures to the NATO country and its withdrawal from EUNAVFOR Irini, the European naval operation considered to be inimical to Turkey’s geopolitical interests.

The two sides agreed that Malta and Turkey should cooperate in the fight against international organized crime, money laundering, human trafficking, drug trafficking and terrorism.

Bartolo was also said to have “expressed his concern about the strong tension in the Eastern Mediterranean and appealed for a peaceful solution, the search for compromise and the common good; to enter into negotiations and discuss ways towards a solution and the observance of international law as well as discussing ways to resolve disputes between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.”

“Malta favours a single, united Libya in the hands of the Libyans themselves. War is not a solution. Libyans should be supported to find an agreement between themselves so that their country; among the richest in the Mediterranean, will take the lead for the good of the Libyan people. Peace and security in Libya are also essential for peace and security in Europe and the Mediterranean,” Bartolo said.

This week MEPs will discuss the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkish revanchism, after an incident in which an Irini naval asset was warded off by two Turkish frigates accompanied a cargo ship en route to Tripoli.

Turkey is actively providing the UN-recognised Government of National Accord in Libya with weaponry and air support in its fight against Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his Libyan National Army.

The LNA in turn is backed by the UAE, Egypt, as well as supported by France and Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group.

Tripoli insists that Operation Irini, which was set up to enforce the Libyan arms embargo, punishes it by attempting to prevent Turkish supplies from across the Eastern Mediterranean.

Irini, run by a joint Italian-Greek command, is also attempting to patrol the seas in which the GNA extended its exclusive economic zone to the Turkish zone.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said that Operation Irini had failed to meet the demands and concerns of the internationally recognised government. “Does it say anything about the warplanes coming to Libya from Syria? Does it look into arms sent from Abu Dhabi? Does it have a report about France supplying arms to Haftar?” he asked during a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart, Luigi di Maio, back in June.

“It’s not objective. Operation Irini does not contribute to a solution to the Libya problem, nor the embargo,” Cavusoglu said in Ankara.