Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the talks in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russia, May 14, 2019. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Deep differences postponed a visit by Russian Foreign and Defense Minister Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Shoygu to Istanbul on Sunday for talks on Libya, where the two countries support opposing sides in long-standing conflicts.

The Turkish and Russian foreign ministries did not mention in their statements the reason for canceling the visit, but diplomatic sources told the London-based Asharq Al Awsat that intensive contacts took place on Sunday morning in an attempt to hold the talks on time, but the differences over the Libyan file seemed deeper than reaching a formula for holding the talks.

Meantime, a report published by the Turkish news agency "Demir Oran" close to the government considered that the Turkish interest in Libya is due to Ankara's ambitions in Libyan oil to pay the losses of its companies.

Moreover, Paris has escalated its stance towards Turkish interventions in Libya, saying that it is “acting in an unacceptable way by using NATO, and France cannot tolerate this.”

The French statement coincided with the announcement of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that “it is time for all Libyans and all parties to work so that Russia or any other country cannot intervene.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, decided to put off the talks during a phone call on June 14, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The two countries' deputy ministers will continue contacts and talks in the period ahead. Minister-level talks will be held at a later date," the statement said.

Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had been set to visit Istanbul for the talks.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said discussion will be held on the date of the ministers' meeting.

The United Nations said this week that warring sides had begun new peace talks in Libya. The country has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the North African country's longtime dictator, Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.

The struggle pits Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east of the country against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

The Egyptian Peace Initiative for Libya has so far won the support by France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Greece, Italy, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, the Arab League, and the African Union. Importantly, the United States’ National Security Council and the UN Mission in Libya have also backed the initiative.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi announced a new initiative for Libya on June 6 which proposes the election of a leadership council, the disbanding of militias, and the exit of all foreign fighters from Libya in a bid to halt the civil and proxy war that has ravaged the once-rich and stable country after the ouster of the country’s longtime leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011.

Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli alongside Qatar and Italy.