Libya: UN Security Council Calls On Eastern Libya Forces to Halt Offensive On Tripoli

Fighting in Libya on April 6, 2019.

The UN Security Council has called for a halt to military movements in Tripoli following an offensive by eastern forces on the capital.

The UN Security Council on Friday called on forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar to halt an offensive against Tripoli amid concern a battle for Libya's capital could unleash greater instability.

Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) on Thursday launched an assault on Tripoli, held by the UN-backed government and multiple armed militias.

The offensive by the LNA, which is aligned with a parallel administration in the east of the country, threatens to escalate a civil war that has split the country following the ouster of Muammar Gadhafi in 2011.

The council "called on LNA forces to halt all military movements," German UN Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, president of the council for April, told reporters following a closed door session of the body.

"They also called on all forces to de-escalate and halt military activity. There can be no military solution to the conflict," he said.

"The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern at the military activity near Tripoli which risks Libyan stability and prospects for UN mediation and a comprehensive political solution to the crisis," he added.

The call came as the LNA clashed south of Tripoli with militias aligned with the internationally-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez Sarraj.

The LNA said Friday its forces had captured the former international airport south of the capital, a claim denied by the Tripoli-based interior minister.

Haftar's forces have quickly advanced towards the southern outskirts of the capital in recent days as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in Libya to push for a national conference scheduled for later this month to develop a roadmap for delayed parliamentary and presidential elections aimed at uniting the country.

After talking with GNA officials in Tripoli, Guterres went to the eastern city of Tobruk on Friday to meet the president of the Libyan House of Representatives. He then met with Haftar in Benghazi in a bid to avert a "bloody confrontation" over Tripoli.

Haftar vows to press fight against 'terrorists'

UN envoy Ghassan Salame told the Security Council on Friday that Haftar made clear to Guterres that he intended to continue the assault on Tripoli, diplomats said.

Haftar has presented himself as a seasoned nationalist commander capable of taking on an array Islamist militias, some of which back the Tripoli-based government. He has vowed to clear Tripoli of what he describes as "terrorists," but his critics say he intends strongarm his way to power.

Since 2014, Haftar's forces have wrested control of Libya's oil crescent from mostly government-aligned militias and Islamist groups in the east where oil fields and export terminals are located. Earlier this year, his forces launched an offensive into oil-rich southern Libya and secured border crossings.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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