Merkel in phone diplomacy with Putin and Erdogan over Libya, Syria

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday stepped up her phone diplomacy in attempts to find ways to solve the conflicts in Libya and Syria.

She had a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the importance of expanding political and diplomatic efforts to solve the crisis in Libya, the Kremlin said.

Mediation by Germany and the United Nations was a factor in this, it added.

A spokesman for the German government said that a further exchange had been agreed upon in order to intensify “diplomatic efforts to find a solution.”

Putin said earlier this month that he supported the German peace initiative for the north African country.

The oil-rich country was thrown into chaos and civil war after the overthrow of longtime ruler Moamer Gaddafi in 2011.

A UN-backed government is competing for power with a rival government based in Libya’s east, led by strongman Khalifa Haftar. Haftar’s forces have been moving closer to Tripoli over the weekend.

Merkel also spoke about options for a diplomatic solution with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently said Ankara was ready to send troops to Libya should the internationally recognized government ask for them.

Libya’s UN-backed government on Sunday denied claims that Turkish-backed Syrian rebels were fighting alongside its own forces in battles around the capital Tripoli.

The situation in Syria was another topic of the phone conversation, a government spokesman in Berlin said. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have increased their attacks on the last rebel stronghold in Idlib. The airstrikes are forcing some 235,000 people to flee, according to the UN, most towards Turkey.

The country is already hosting some 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Erdogan has warned that the fighting could push increasing numbers of refugees towards Europe again.

According to the Kremlin, the call between Merkel and Putin, which originated from the German side, also focused on the controversial Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline, confirming both governments remained committed to the project.

Construction work on the pipeline has stopped due to US sanctions. Russia does not expect it to be operational until the end of 2020.

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