May 26, 2019
PARIS (Reuters) – Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar has ruled out a ceasefire in the battle for Tripoli and accused the United Nations of seeking to partition Libya, according to an interview published by French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) began an offensive in early April to take Tripoli from fighters loyal to Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) which has the backing of the United Nations.
The LNA, which is allied to a parallel government in the east, has not been able to breach the southern defenses of Tripoli. The fighting has killed at least 510 people, forced 75,000 out of their homes and trapped thousands of migrants in detention centers.
“Of course, the political solution is still the goal. But to get back to politics, we must first finish with militias,” Haftar told the newspaper.
Haftar also said the head of U.N. mission to Libya, Ghassan Salame, was no longer impartial.
“Partition of Libya is maybe what our adversaries want. This is maybe what Ghassan Salame also wants.”
The flare-up in the conflict in Libya – which has been gripped by anarchy since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 – began in early April, when the LNA advanced on the capital.
Even though France and other Western countries officially back the Libyan government, some have supported Haftar as they see him as a bulwark against Islamist militias in the country.
Macron had asked Haftar in a meeting held in Paris this week to make a public step toward a ceasefire, without much luck, a French official told Reuters.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)