President Donald Trump, Turkish leader Erdogan talk Libya cease-fire, Syria fighting in phone call

Jan. 28 (UPI) — U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone late Monday to discuss the fragile cease-fire agreement in Libya, and fighting in Syria, the White House said.

White House aide Judd Deere said the two leaders discussed a need to eliminate foreign interference and maintain the Libyan cease-fire.

Erdogan has accused rebel Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar of rejecting two peace summits and violating the cease-fire. He said Haftar forces have attacked civilians in an effort to capture the capital, Tripoli.

Turkey and Russia had negotiated a temporary cease-fire between the warring factions, but Haftar walked away from talks meant to secure a permanent stoppage in the fighting. The Libyan conflict has grown since the death of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates supporting a group in eastern Libya and the U.N.-supported government.

The two leaders also addressed fighting in Idlib, Syria, where Turkey and Russia had agreed in September 2018 should be protected as a de-escalation zone. Instead, more than 1,300 civilians have been killed there in fighting that involves Syrian government forces backed by Russian troops.

“President Trump also highlighted the importance of Turkey and Greece resolving their disagreements in the eastern Mediterranean,” Deere added.

Turkey demanded recently that Greece demilitarize 16 Aegean islands, and Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos said Ankara’s actions interfere with Athens’ sovereign rights and threatens is escalate regional tensions.

Turkey says Greece is violating a past treaty by keeping troops on the islands.

Trump also discussed a powerful 6.8-magnitude earthquake in eastern Turkey last week that killed 41 people. Turkish officials said 1,600 people were injured in the quake, which produced nearly 1,000 aftershocks.

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