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US calls on Haftar to end Tripoli push, warns against Russia role

Published: November 16, 2019
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Source: al jazeera

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The United States has called on Libyan renegade General Khalifa Haftar to stop a months-long offensive on Tripoli and said it would back the country’s internationally recognised government against "Russia’s attempts to exploit the conflict".

The statement was the most explicit call by Washington against the self-styled Libyan National Army of Haftar, who was earlier praised by President Donald Trump.

"The United States calls on the 'Libyan National Army’ to end its offensive on Tripoli," the US State Department said in a joint statement released on Thursday after talks with a delegation from Libya’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord in Washington.

Libya has been split between rival camps based in Tripoli and the east since 2014, a result of the divisions that surfaced following the NATO-backed overthrow of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi three years earlier.

Haftar’s LNA launched an offensive in April to seize the capital and has been battling forces aligned with the GNA.

He is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials. The LNA denies it has foreign backing.

The New York Times reported earlier this month that the Russian mercenaries were believed to be controlled by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, an allegation denied by Moscow.

"The US delegation, representing a number of US government agencies, underscored support for Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s attempts to exploit the conflict against the will of the Libyan people," the statement said.

In a move seen by some as a sign Washington might be backing Haftar, Trump called the eastern-based commander in the first weeks of the offensive, which has left more than 1,000 people dead and failed to breach Tripoli’s defences.

Trump "recognised Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system," the White House said at the time.

But the US later distanced itself from Haftar and joined calls for a ceasefire.

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Pro-Haftar forces in Libya have been accused of yet another mass atrocity, this time in an airstrike on a public building in southwestern Libya, according to new reports, following an attack on a migrant center in Tripoli July 3rd which killed 44 people and wounded some 180. Al Jazeera is reporting a new drone strike Monday killed at least 40 people who were attending a wedding ceremony in the town of Murzuq.

At least four people were killed and 33 wounded when two car bombs exploded at a funeral for a former special forces commander in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. Those killed in Thursday's blast included two civilians and two soldiers, while soldiers, police, and civilians were among the injured, Interior Ministry spokesman Tarek el-Kharraz told The Associated Press.

France on Wednesday admitted that it is the owner of American-made anti-tank missiles found at a rebel military base in Libya, raising awkward questions about European involvement in the civil war.

Libya was once a key embarkation point for jihadists headed to foreign battlefields - first in the 1980s Afghan-Soviet War where they supported the CIA-backed mujahideen, and more recently in Syria, where both massive jihadist manpower and heavy weaponry were transferred to the killing fields of Aleppo and Idlib (also, it should be noted, in support of CIA regime change efforts against Assad).  

The United Nations Security Council has called on Libya's warring parties to commit to a ceasefire after a deadly air raid on a detention centre for migrants and refugees near the capital, Tripoli.  "The members of the Security Council stressed the need for all parties to urgently de-escalate the situation and to commit to a ceasefire," the 15-member body said in a joint statement on Friday. "Lasting peace and stability in Libya will come only through a political solution."

Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) General Khalifa Haftar said yesterday that his main focus is taking control of the Libyan capital Tripoli and expelling militias from the city, explaining that he does not only care about the army’s exportation of oil. In a letter to US news agency Bloomberg, Haftar said that the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation currently enjoys exclusive export rights for Libyan crude oil.

A major airstrike on a migrant center in Tripoli, Libya has left at least 44 people dead and another 80 wounded in what is the current renewed civil war's single worst disaster yet. About 120 migrants were being held inside a hangar at a refugee site when the building took a direct hit from what's believed to have been an overhead jet belonging to warlord Khalifa Haftar's LNA forces. Another 600 people, including many women and children were in a building next to the site of direct impact when the strike happened Tuesday.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has denied ownership of weapons found in Libya after a senior US senator demanded an investigation of reports that American-made missiles were seized at a base belonging to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar. The UAE's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the denial in a statement on Tuesday, adding that Abu Dhabi reaffirmed its commitment to the UN Security Council's arms embargo on Libya. "The UAE also urges all parties to de-escalate tensions and to re-engage in the UN's political process," the statement said.

We've noted before that Libya's new civil war has increasingly come out in the open as in reality an international proxy war, with even the White House in the past months "switching" support from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli to the renegade General Khalifa Haftar, whose LNA forces have for months laid siege to the capital in an attempt to wrest the country from GNA authority.

Forces allied to Libya’s internationally recognised government based in Tripoli captured US and Chinese rockets as well as drones when they seized a town from eastern forces last week, officials said yesterday, as reported by Reuters.

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