U.S. calls for end to armed conflict in Tripoli

Alwasat - Cairo Mon 18 Nov 2019, 10:50 PM
alwasat radio

The United States called on Thursday for the end the military operation in and around the capital Tripoli, which has been ongoing since early April.

"The United States calls on the 'Libyan National Army' to end its offensive on Tripoli. This will further facilitate U.S.-Libya cooperation to prevent undue foreign interference, reinforce legitimate state authority, and address the issues underlying the conflict," the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

The statement was issued following a meeting between the Libyan foreign minister, the Libyan minister of interior, and senior U.S. officials in Washington D.C.

"The U.S. delegation, representing a number of U.S. government agencies, underscored support for Libya's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia's attempts to exploit the conflict against the will of the Libyan people," the statement said.

Since the outbreak of the war more than seven months ago, the eastern-based army commander Khalifa Haftar has received personal support from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Shortly after the start of the eastern-based offensive in Tripoli, Trump spoke by phone with Haftar and discussed ongoing counterterrorism efforts, according to the White House.

"The U.S. position that supported Hafter at the beginning of the Tripoli operation has changed and another position has emerged by the U.S. administration to explicitly demand Hafter to stop the attack on Tripoli," Mohammed al-Khoja, a Libyan terrorism researcher, told Xinhua.

"The U.S. position changed because Hafter had a deadline to conclude the fight of Tripoli in September. By failing to take over the capital and seeking assistance from Russia directly, things changed and made Washington angry by what it believes Russia's influence in Libya that grants it the control over Libya, one of Africa's richest oil countries, especially after Russia dominance of Syria," al-Khoja said.

The researcher believes that Haftar's forces are aware of the need to end the fight in Tripoli before the upcoming Berlin conference on Libya, which could come up with western consensus demanding cease-fire in Tripoli.

Khalid Taruni, a Libyan political analyst, believes the changed U.S. position toward the ongoing armed conflict in Tripoli comes as response to the changes on ground, particularly after ascertaining that Russia had provided military support to Haftar.

"Everyone in Libya knows the political and military rivalry between the United States and Russia, especially in the Middle East, as two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Therefore, the rivalry between the two will not stop, especially that Libya has economic potential that makes it an attractive arena for international conflict," Tarhuni told Xinhua.

The political analyst also pointed out that the United States is trying to take a position opposing Russia "even if it agrees implicitly to support Russian move in favor of Hafter against terrorism and militias in Libya, but will not allow Moscow to act alone in this direction."

"Haftar has changed his compass towards Russia because he sees it as a country supporting with weapons and trained Russian personnel who help him in the war to control Tripoli especially that he is well aware of the fact the Washington will only provide significant political support to him. This support is insignificant on ground against the arsenal of the militias of Tripoli and Misurata," Tarhuni explained.

The eastern-based army has been leading a military campaign since early April in and around Tripoli, attempting to take over the city and topple the rival UN-backed government.

The fighting claimed thousands of lives and injured many others, and also displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians away from their homes.

The United States and Russian media recently published images of hundreds of Russian Wagner fighters fighting in southern Tripoli.

Germany's Berlin is preparing to host a conference on Libya later this year, aiming to put an end to the armed conflict in and around Tripoli and bring Libyan parties to dialogue.

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