The Libyan National Conference will be postponed due to ongoing military confrontations around Tripoli, UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame announced yesterday as General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) continued their westward assault.
Originally slated to start this Sunday, Salame said the UN intended to convene the conference as soon as conditions permitted, but it would be impossible to hold the talks “to the backdrop of artillery shelling and air raids”.
“The renewed violence undermined the minimum confidence to launch any fruitful dialogue,” he said, adding that he will also endeavour to address “the fractures that have beset foreign positions on the Libyan issue.”
The two-day summit was set to be attended by some 140 delegates from numerous Libyan factions and was the result of a year’s worth of planning. The decision to postpone is a blow to the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), who had hoped it might open a path to presidential and parliamentary elections by the end of this year.
The announcement came as health officials announced that least 49 have been killed and dozens more injured since Haftar launched the “Flood of Dignity” campaign last week on regions in the west of the country, including Tripoli. The move was widely condemned by the international community, who warned that it could plunge the country into active civil war once again.
Both sides the LNA and the GNA have claimed they are advancing, with the two forces battling for control over Tripoli International Airport.
Yesterday, UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt proposed pushing for a new UN Security Council resolution on the issue, calling for economic sanctions against Haftar, despite the possibility of a Russian veto. Meetings were subsequently held alongside his Jean-Yves Le Drian, and with the UAE’s foreign ministry.
However, the controversial Libyan general has been backed by Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel, prompting growing outrage from Tripoli. On Friday, Libyan Brigadier General Mohammad Al-Qunidi, the government’s chief of the military intelligence, said that Haftar was attacking the capital with Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi arms.
France has also controversially backed Haftar; on Sunday it was reported that Al-Sarraj had officially asked the French ambassador to Libya to convey his protest to President Emmanuel Macron, stating that the bias contradicted previous efforts to support the country’s political transition.
However, yesterday Macron reportedly called Al-Sarraj to deny any connection between Paris and Benghazi’s current campaign. The French president condemned the assault, demanding an immediate halt to the fighting.