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France hampers EU calls to halt Haftar offensive in Libya

Libyan General Khalifa Haftar [Twitter]
Libyan General Khalifa Haftar [Twitter]

France on Wednesday blocked a statement by the European Union (EU), in which the bloc was calling on the Libyan General Khalifa Haftar to halt an offensive that has been carried out by his forces in the country’s capital Tripoli, Reuters reported.

The draft statement was expected to stipulate that the military attack launched by Haftar against Tripoli was “endangering the civilian population, disrupting the political process and risks further escalation with serious consequences for Libya and the wider region, including the terrorist threat.”

It would have called for “ceasing hostilities immediately, the Haftar Libyan National Army (LNA)’s withdrawal and the implementation of the United Nations (UN)-brokered humanitarian truces.”

“International and regional partners must exert their influence and send an unequivocal message to the aggressors [Libyan rival governments] that there is no military solution to the crisis, only a political one,” the draft read.

READ: Libya UN-backed gov’t accuses Haftar forces of recruiting children

The statement was reportedly drawn up in the Belgian capital of Brussels through a process by which individual EU member governments could voice objections.

France, which owns oil assets in Libya and has previously provided military assistance to Haftar’s forces, disagreed on “how to handle the latest escalation in the troubled North African country.” Its difference was backed by Italy – a big player in Libya’s oil sector and a supporter of the UN-backed Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

The EU said it would “draw up a new text for the statement on which everyone [EU members] can agree.”

The head of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, told Reuters that Paris and Rome had “diverging interests” in Libya, adding that the union needed “more unity” and had “to speak with only one voice as Europeans, but unfortunately Europeans are divided on this.”

On Monday, the EU foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said that the bloc was united in calling for a truce and a return to diplomacy in Libya.

Since 4 April, Haftar forces have been carrying out a military operation to recapture Tripoli from the Government of National Accord (GNA). The attack was reported to have been armed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.

Thousands of Tripoli’s residents were reported to have fled the city as the battle between Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and the GNA forces escalated.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011 when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in the eastern city of Al-Bayda, to which Haftar is linked, and another in Tripoli, led by the internationally-backed Fayez Al-Sarraj.

OPINION: If Haftar pulls back now, he could spell his own demise

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