Syria to exchange consular missions with Libya’s Haftar government in Benghazi
The Syrian government and parallel Libyan authorities opposed to UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), agreed on Sunday to exchange diplomatic missions and confront Turkish “interference,” state media said.
A delegation representing Khalifa Haftar - the eastern commander whose Libyan National Army (LNA) forces have been fighting troops of the GNA - met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem in Damascus, state news agency SANA said.
“A memorandum of understanding was signed... for the reopening of diplomatic and consular missions,” SANA said.
Libya has not had any representation in Damascus since 2012, following the fall and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising.
Muallem said diplomatic missions would be reopened in Damascus and the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, controlled by Haftar’s forces.
The two sides also pledged to coordinate to “confront Turkish interference and aggression against both countries.”
The agreement comes as tensions spiral between the Syrian regime and Turkish forces in northwestern Syria, where bombardment has killed dozens of troops on each side.
Turkey backs the GNA in the Libyan capital Tripoli, and has dispatched troops and pro-Turkish Syrian fighters to the North African country.
Haftar, backed by the Syrian regime’s main ally Russia, launched an offensive to capture the Libyan capital of Tripoli in April vowing to end the rule of militias that include hardline groups linked to al-Qaeda and others. General Haftar has reportedly received support from international allies opposed to extremism and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Syria’s conflict, sparked by the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011, has killed more than 380,000 people and displaced millions.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as the death toll mounted. Several regional powers, betting on the demise of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, suspended diplomatic ties with Damascus.
Some have since restored those ties. In December 2018, the United Arab Emirates reopened its embassy, followed by Bahrain.