Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Donald Trump calls Libya’s Haftar and applauds role on ‘counterterrorism’

The US and Russia block a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. AP
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump. AP

In a first, the White House announced on Friday that US President Donald Trump held a phone conversation on Monday with Libyan military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, as his forces advance into the capital Tripoli.

Mr Trump’s call, disclosed four days later after it occurred, came amidst increasing US discussions with regional allies and France on the unfolding situation in Libya.

“President Donald J. Trump spoke on April 15, 2019, with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar to discuss ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya,” the White House statement read.

It added that Mr 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 statement was seen as a signal of support from Washington to the Libyan General seeking control over Tripoli and later followed by similar sentiment by US acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan. Speaking at the Pentagon, Mr Shanahan said “what I do support is Field Marshal Haftar's support in terms of his role in counterterrorism”. He insisted, however, that “a military solution is not what Libya needs.” “Where we need Field Marshal Haftar's support is in building democratic stability there in the region,” he said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to discuss Libya among other issues on Thursday. He also met with UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Thursday and discussed the evolving situations in Yemen, Libya and Sudan.

The situation in Libya was also on the agenda earlier this month during the visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi to the White House. Mr Sisi received the Libyan army commander shortly after that visit in Cairo.

It remains unclear, however, what strategy the US is seeking in Libya. On Thursday at the United Nations, both the “United States and Russia said they could not support a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya at this time,” according to Reuters.

This comes at a time of growing international deliberations over recognising Field Marshal Haftar as the de facto ruler of Libya after years of disarray. However concerns remain over the loss of life as fighting continues.

Updated: April 20, 2019 02:19 AM

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