Libya’s Sarraj seeks Europe’s help to stop Haftar assault

TRIPOLI: Libya’s internationally recognised government said on Monday its head Fayez al Sarraj will tour Europe to seek support against an attack on Tripoli by strongman Khalifa Haftar, who urged his troops to “wipe out” government forces.
Sarraj, who heads the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, will on Tuesday start a series of meetings with the leaders of Italy, Germany, France and possibly Britain, the foreign ministry said.
The visit to France — where Sarraj’s government said he would meet President Emmanuel Macron — comes after the GNA repeatedly accused Paris of politically backing the assault which Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) launched on Tripoli on April 4.
The offensive to oust the GNA from the capital has set off another deadly escalation in a country mired in violence since 2011.
Ahead of Sarraj’s tour, Haftar urged his troops to “wipe out the enemy”, in a message read out by LNA spokesman General Ahmad al Mesmari late on Sunday.
Forces backing the GNA recently launched a counter-offensive against the LNA, leading to a stalemate on the southern outskirts of the capital.
Haftar also vowed that “in the event of a retreat by the enemy, troops should pursue it with speed and force, prevent it from fleeing and wipe it out” with support from LNA air forces.
“Respect the lives of citizens and their goods,” the message added. Haftar’s remarks came just hours after the United Nations mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called for “an extendable one-week humanitarian truce” starting at 4:00 am on Monday, to mark the beginning of Ramadhan.

DIPLOMATIC OFFENSIVE
Sarraj hopes to “gather support against the aggression” by Haftar, the GNA foreign ministry in Tripoli said.
He will hold talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Rome on Tuesday morning before travelling to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it said.
He will meet Macron in Paris on Wednesday, a statement said, while a visit to London is also being considered.
Britain has pushed for a resolution at the UN Security Council demanding a ceasefire in Libya but its efforts have foundered amid divisions at the world body, namely opposition from Russia and the United States.
Italy, Libya’s former colonial power, is a key backer of the GNA and has echoed calls by Merkel for a “unified” European position and a political solution to resolve the crisis.
But there is anger in Tripoli over perceived French backing for Haftar and Libyans have taken to the streets of Tripoli accusing Paris of double dealing. France denies the accusations.
Last month Sarraj told French daily Liberation: “We are surprised that France does not support our government that is democratic.”
US President Donald Trump, in a phone call with the military strongman last month, “recognised Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”, the White House said.
— AFP