The US wants eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar to stop his offensive on the capital held by the internationally recognised government and warned against Russian interference.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has been trying since April to take Tripoli, part of a power struggle in the oil producing nation since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
He is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials. The LNA denies any foreign backing.
“The United States wants the ‘Libyan National Army’ to end its offensive on Tripoli,” the US State Department said in statement after a visit to Washington by Tripoli-based foreign and interior ministers.
Both launched a US-Libya security dialogue.
“The US delegation, representing a number of 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.
It is the strongest US statement since Russian mercenaries were first sighted in Tripoli in September fighting alongside the LNA, allied to a parallel government in eastern Libya.
President Donald Trump called Haftar early in the offensive, which failed to breach Tripoli’s defences, in a move some diplomats took as sign Washington might back the former Gaddafi officer.
Trump “recognised Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system,” the White House said at the time.
A parallel central bank in eastern Libya received increased deliveries of new banknotes from Russia this year, Russian customs data showed.
While Russia provided Haftar with support, it simultaneously cultivated relations with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli.