Published: Sun, April 07, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Libya talks to go ahead despite new fighting: UN envoy

Libya talks to go ahead despite new fighting: UN envoy

The head of Libya's UN-backed government Fayez al-Sarraj on Saturday accused his rival Khalifa Haftar of betraying him over a military offensive against the capital Tripoli which risks plunging the country into civil war.

Libyan Brigadier General Mohammad Al-Qunidi, who is chief of the military intelligence loyal to Prime Minister Fayiz Al-Sarraaj, has said that General Khalifa Haftar is attacking Tripoli with Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi arms.

Haftar's forces are battling for control of an area some 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the capital near Tripoli's worldwide airport, which was destroyed in 2014. The country is governed by rival authorities: The internationally backed government in Tripoli and the government in the east, which Hifter is aligned with.

Anti-government forces led by Haftar earlier said they had been targeted by an air strike about 50 kilometres south of Tripoli.

Residents of Misrata east of Tripoli told Reuters news agency that militias from their city had been sent to defend the capital.

Late Friday Haftar's men also briefly seized the airport, before being ousted.

Hifter announced Thursday he was deploying his forces toward Tripoli, sparking fears that the tensions could be escalating out of control as militias from the western cities of Zawiya and Misarata said that they have mobilized to confront Hifter.

At a G7 meeting in France, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he and his counterparts had agreed they must exert pressure on those responsible for the upsurge of fighting in Libya, especially Haftar. "The situation is very worrying and we can not accept a further military escalation", Maas said after a ministerial meeting held in the French seaside resort of Dinard.

"I still hope, if possible, to avoid armed confrontation around Tripoli", he said.

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The coastal capital Tripoli is the ultimate prize for Haftar's eastern parallel government.

Gen Haftar spoke to Mr Guterres in Benghazi on Friday, and reportedly told him that his operation would not stop until his troops had defeated "terrorism".

Haftar's spokesman, Ahmed al-Mesmari, said the LNA was targeted by four air raids on Saturday, including one in the al-Aziziya region, which sits about 50km south of Tripoli.

Despite the flare-up, United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame insisted Saturday that talks planned to be held next week in Libya would go ahead.

The statement added that military activity is "hindering prospects for the UN-led political process, putting civilians in danger, and prolonging the suffering of the Libyan people".

Libya has remained split between various power groups ever since a NATO-backed uprising toppled the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

With the global community split over Libya, diplomatic solutions appear limited.

The EU, for instance, is making strenuous efforts to ensure that the U.S. is seen to be telling Haftar to back off, and to tell his three principle external supporters - Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - to do the same.

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