Libya talks to go ahead despite new fighting: United Nations envoy

April FrancisApr 07, 2019

Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) said on Friday its forces had advanced into the capital's southern outskirts and taken its former global airport.

Experts say Haftar had backing from Egypt, which shares a 1,115 kilometre border with Libya, as well Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Both statements echoed earlier words from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres that "there is no military solution".

Russian Federation also called for restraint, saying Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Haftar in a phone call that Moscow continues to insist on a political solution to "disputed issues" in Libya.

The escalation comes after forces commanded by Haftar, who runs the self-styled Libya National Army based in the country's east, pushed westward.

The renewed fighting came a day after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived for his first visit to Libya as UN chief.

Libya's rival leaders, GNA's Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and Haftar, agreed in Paris last year to hold elections before the end of the year, but that vote never materialized as the two rival administrations and numerous militias grapple for power.

"Individuals that actually pledged allegiance to Haftar switched sides when they saw the army of Haftar marching into town", said Harchaoui, a research fellow at the Clingendael Institute think tank.

Haftar ordered his Libyan National Army (LNA) to advance on Tripoli on Thursday, following years of rivalry with the UN-recognized government.

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But they failed to take a checkpoint about 30 km west of the capital in a bid to close the coastal road to Tunisia. - The militiamen retook the base after a "short exchange of fire", the source said April 5 on condition of anonymity. An LNA source confirmed 128 had been captured.

"Haftar is not capable of waging the battle for Tripoli", said Libyan analyst Farhat Asseid.

Haftar, 75, was quoted by Al-Arabiya TV as telling Guterres his offensive would continue until terrorism was defeated.

"My aim remains the same: avoid a military confrontation".

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

A group of allied militias called the Joint Tripoli Protection Force based in the area around the Libyan capital announced they would also deploy to repel Hifter's offensive.

However, Russia also warned against efforts to blame Gen Haftar for the insecurity in the country.

The EU, for instance, is making strenuous efforts to ensure that the USA 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. "We urge all involved parties to immediately halt all military activity and movements toward Tripoli", the body, which is composed of the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the USA wrote in a statement.

Germany called an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council due to the military escalation. Cairo has been one of Haftar's strongest supporters. Former colonial power Italy, which lies across the Mediterranean from Libya and has been a destination for migrants fleeing the chaos at home, was very anxious by the turn of events, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said. "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.

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