The chancellor has urged Libya's Khalifa Haftar to "immediately end" operations to capture Tripoli. Amid signs of growing tensions in Europe, France has blocked an EU statement calling for an end to the offensive.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar to "immediately end" his offensive to capture Tripoli from the country's UN-backed government, chancellery spokesman Steffen Seibert said Thursday.
Earlier this month, Haftar ordered his forces in eastern Libya to capture the capital, effectively torpedoing international efforts at a peace deal between the country's warring factions.
In a phone call with Libya's UN-backed leader, Fayez Sarraj, Merkel said:
- "General Haftar and his supporters (must) immediately end all military operations."
- "There can be no military solution in Libya."
- "The political process must continue under the direction of the United Nations."
Deadly power struggle
Despite international attempts at securing a ceasefire to allow civilians and the wounded to flee, Tripoli and its outskirts have been caught in the middle of intense fighting. Days after Haftar launched his brutal military campaign, the UN-backed government launched a counteroffensive.
The World Health Organization said at least 56 people have been killed over the past week. Meanwhile, more than 190 eastern Libyan troops have been captured by forces loyal to the UN-backed government.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called for a ceasefire, warning that there is a "likely risk of a worsening crisis in the coming hours."
France, which maintains good relations with Haftar, reportedly blocked an EU statement on Wednesday that called on the Libyan general to end his offensive.
"It would be very serious if France for economic or commercial reasons had blocked an EU initiative to bring peace to Libya and would support a party that is fighting," Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told RTL Radio.
Despite the row, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said that the EU and its member states are united in calling on all parties to "immediately cease all military operations."
Who is Khalifa Haftar? Haftar is a former military officer who helped Gadhafi during a military-led coup in 1969. However, he later fell out of favor with the dictator. He enjoys widespread support in eastern Libya from several armed militias filled with battle-hardened fighters who made their names during the 2011 civil conflict.