Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Tripoli militias must disarm before ceasefire talks, says Libya’s Haftar

More than 500 people have been killed and 2,400 wounded so far in the conflict, the World Health Organisation has said

A fighter loyal to the Libya's internationally-recognised government fires a heavy machine gun at against forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar. AFP
A fighter loyal to the Libya's internationally-recognised government fires a heavy machine gun at against forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar. AFP

Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has called for the disarmament of militias defending Tripoli in return for halting his offensive on the city, promising that gunmen in the city who laid down their weapons would be allowed to “return home safe and sound.”

Field Marshal Haftar said his forces had begun their march on the Libyan capital after six rounds of failed negotiations with the UN-recognised government led by Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj, according to an interview published in French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

“Of course, a political solution remains the objective,” Field Marshal Haftar was quoted as having said.

“But to get back to politics, we have to finish with the militias once and for all.”

During an international trip last week, Field Marshal Haftar told French President Emmanuel Macron that he was willing to negotiate a ceasefire but that the conditions were not right.

Field Marshal Haftar’s Libya National Army began an offensive on Tripoli almost two months ago but has yet to breach the city. A new push to crack the capital’s southern defences began on May 25. At the start of May, the LNA leader called on his men to fight harder during Ramadan.

Field Marshal Haftar also said in the interview that UN special envoy Ghassan Salame was no longer impartial.

In an address to the UN Security Council, Mr Salame urged the body to take more action to stem the flow of arms that has fuelled the fighting in what he said was shaping up to be “the start of a long and bloody war”.

“Without a robust enforcement mechanism, the arms embargo into Libya will become a cynical joke. Some nations are fuelling this bloody conflict; the United Nations should put an end to it,” Mr Salame told the Security Council.

Libya has been subject to a UN arms embargo since 2011, but several countries are believed to have supplied it with weapons, including Turkey, which recently appeared to have delivered at least a dozen armoured personnel carriers.

Images of the new vehicles were shared on the official Facebook page for the defensive operation to defend the capital.

“Salame is making irresponsible statements,” Field Marshal Haftar said.

“He wasn’t like that before – he has changed. From an impartial and honest mediator, he has become a biased one.”

Libya has been unstable since the 2011 uprising and subsequent overthrow and execution of then leader Muammar Qaddafi. Since then, the North African country has been divided, ruled by two competing governments.

Mr Sarraj’s internationally recognised government is in Tripoli, while Field Marshal Haftar’s influence is in the East. Dozens of militias are also active players in the conflict.

About 510 people have been killed and more than 2,400 wounded in the fighting, the World Health Organisation has said.

The clashes between Field Marshal Haftar and Mr Sarraj’s military forces have driven 75,000 people from their homes and trapped almost 100,000 people on the outskirts of Tripoli.

Updated: May 26, 2019 06:35 PM