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Russia, Turkey ‘postpone Libya talks due to discord over battle for Sirte’

Russia and Turkey reportedly postponed talks on defusing fighting in Libya due to discord over the Ankara-backed Tripoli government’s push to retake the key coastal city of Sirte from Russian-backed eastern forces.

The Libyan conflict has lately been back in the headlines because of Turkey’s success in using armed drones and other backing to turn the tide of the conflict in favour of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Moscow’s apparent move in response to fly a score of MIG-29 and Su-24 fighter jets, stripped of their markings, to two remote desert airfields to back the rebel Libyan National Army (LNA) forces. Egypt, along with the UAE and Russia, is reportedly active in supporting the LNA effort to fight off a GNA bid to retake the strategic city of Sirte—located south of the Gulf of Sirte between the capital and second most populous Libyan city Benghazi—as well as the al-Jufra air base and the oil fields to the south.

Heavy clashes have emerged as the GNA has laid siege to LNA-held Sirte, also close to major energy export terminals on the Mediterranean seaboard.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov chose to not make the trip to Istanbul on June 14 for a scheduled meeting with his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, but Turkish officials briefed that background talks were continuing at expert level.

“A result was supposed to come out [of the meetings], but that stage could not be reached. There are issues where the two countries are on opposing sides,” one Turkish official was quoted as saying by Reuters.

The United Nations said last week that the warring sides had started new ceasefire talks in Libya after GNA forces pushed back LNA soldiers that were previously making headway with their plan to take the capital Tripoli.