EU ministers pile pressure on Haftar to halt Libya offensive
EU foreign ministers on Saturday upped pressure on Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar to halt his offensive on Tripoli, urging the strongman to commit to a political solution.
Khalifa’s dramatic bid to take Tripoli came as a meeting of Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers was being held in northern France with the club issuing a statement on Friday urging an immediate halt to “all military activity and movements toward Tripoli”.
Several European ministers on Saturday warned Haftar not to countenance any further military action, saying that this could destroy a UN-backed peace process.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the Tripoli operations as “untimely initiatives” that could further destabilise Libya.
“There is a fundamental principle in Libya. There will be no military victory. The solution can only be a political solution,” he added.
He said that France and Italy, the two European powers with the most influence in north Africa, were “on the same wavelength”.
“It is important that all of the international community takes the same line,” Le Drian added.
Experts say Haftar had had backing from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as France, which is seen as his closest ally in Europe.
– ‘Overcome past differences’ –
Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi said that the G7 statement, which was also echoed by the UN Security Council, showed that the international community was not prepared to tolerate military action.
“We think the military initiatives are not the best ones to grant peaceful developments in Libya and a constructive path forward for stabilising the country,” he said.
Asked if sanctions could be imposed against Haftar were he to fail to comply with the demands of the international community, he replied: “We have stated quite clearly what our position is and we very much hope that he (Haftar) will take it into consideration. If this will not happen, then we can see what can next be done.”
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said there should be pressure on all the actors in Libya “especially general Haftar”.
He said it was important to “make sure that there is no further military escalation”.
The growing international pressure on Haftar came as fresh fighting flared Saturday south of Tripoli between the pro-government forces and Haftar’s troops.
On Friday Haftar’s forces were pushed back from a key checkpoint west of the capital, less than 24 hours after seizing it during the lightning offensive towards Tripoli.
Despite the flare-up, UN envoy Ghassan Salame insisted Saturday that talks planned to be held next week in Libya would go ahead.
Le Drian expressed particular frustration over the escalation given that Haftar and the head of the Tripoli-based government, Fayez al-Sarraj, had come to agreements earlier this year in talks in Abu Dhabi.
“They need now to overcome their past differences in the interest of the Libyan people. The Libyan people have had enough of this violence,” the French minister said.