UAE maintains militias control Tripoli

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The United Arab Emirates said “extremist militias” were controlling the Libyan capital which its ally Khalifa Haftar is fighting to take from forces allied to Libya’s internationally recognised government.

The UAE, along with Egypt, supports Haftar who they see as a bulwark against Islamist militants in North Africa. A 2017 UN report said the Gulf Arab state provided his eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) with military and logistic support.

Haftar’s offensive launched more than three weeks ago to seize Tripoli all but wrecked UN-backed efforts for a peace deal between the rival factions to end eight years of conflict.

“Priority in Libya is to counter extremism/terrorism and support stability in long drawn out crisis,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in a Twitter post.

“Abu Dhabi agreement offered opportunity to support UN-led process. Meanwhile extremist militias continue to control capital and derail search for political solution.”

Abu Dhabi, which voiced support for UN peace efforts, last February hosted talks between Prime Minister Fayez Seraj and Haftar, where they agreed on the need for national elections.

The LNA assault, the largest military confrontation in Libya since the 2011 toppling of leader Muammar Gaddafi, stalled on Tripoli’s strongly defended southern outskirts last week. Fighting has intensified with both sides using artillery.

A June 2017 UN report said Haftar’s forces received aircraft and military vehicles from the UAE, which built up an air base at Al Khadim, allowing the LNA, allied to a parallel government based in Benghazi, to gain air superiority by 2016.

A Gulf source told Reuters the UAE had provided logistic support to Haftar to safeguard security following cross-border militant attacks.

“Today, Haftar is his own man and trying to achieve his own goals,” the source said.

Since the Tripoli offensive started, 376 people have died including 23 civilians, and 1,822 wounded, 79 civilians, according to latest United Nations figures. More than 45,000 people fled their homes.