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France rejects Libya's claim it supports Khalifa Haftar

April 19, 2019

Libya has halted its security cooperation with France after accusing Paris of supporting military strongman Khalifa Haftar. France has denied the claims, insisting it wants a political solution in Libya.

Emmanuel Macron, Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar
From left to right: Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, French President Emmanuel Macron and General Khalifa HaftarImage: picture-alliance/C. Liewig

France on Thursday rejected an accusation from Libya's internationally recognized interior ministry that it has been supporting Khalifa Haftar, whose self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) have launched an offensive to take control of the country's capital of Tripoli.

The Libyan interior ministry has suspended "all relations between the ministry and the French side ... due to the position of the French government in support of the criminal Haftar," the ministry said in Tripoli. 

Read more: Libya's battle for Tripoli — what you need to know

A French foreign ministry official said these claims from Tripoli were "disappointing" and "completely unfounded."

The French presidency said in a statement it supported Libya's internationally recognized government under Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj as well as "the mediation of the UN towards an inclusive political solution in Libya."

France has helped train security forces associated with the Tripoli government, including police and Serraj's presidential guard. In February, France provided Serraj's forces with six patrol boats for its coastline.

Mixed support

However, there has been some recognition of Haftar as the means to end the chaos that has plagued Libya since the capture and killing of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Haftar currently enjoys the support of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who believe he can restore stability and combat Islamist militants. 

Haftar's LNA began an assault on Tripoli earlier this month in an attempt to take control of the Libyan capital. The offensive came days before UN-backed peace talks were set to take place.

On Thursday, two mortar bombs almost hit a clinic in al-Suani, a southwestern suburb of Tripoli, according to Reuters news agency. The attack came a day after seven people were killed by Grad rockets which hit a densely populated section of Tripoli. 

The two weeks of fighting have killed 205 people, including 18 civilians, and wounded 913, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

The UN Security Council, led by Germany as part of a dual-presidency with France, have been negotiating a British-drafted resolution demanding a ceasefire in Libya and the creation of a humanitarian corridor from battle zones near Tripoli. However, Russia, the United States and African nations on the council did not support the British initiative.

Germany has therefore called a closed-door meeting of the council to discuss the Libyan conflict, set to take place on Thursday.

dv/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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