The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) expressed its concerns on Friday regarding the deterioration of the security situation in Libya. It called on the Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar to halt its military advancement towards the Libyan capital Tripoli.
The UNSC called on the LNA forces to halt all military movements, said the German UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who holds the council presidency for April. “They also called on all forces to de-escalate and halt military activity. There can be no military solution to the conflict,” he added.
Last Thursday, Haftar forces moved from eastern Libya, launching a military campaign to enter Tripoli where the internationally recognised government is based. Haftar appeared in a video calling for the liberation of the capital from militias and restoring stability in the entire country.
Despite his forces who have easily seized control over parts in the south, they were defeated in some locations such as the city of Al-Zawya in the west of Tripoli, where about 140 troops of LNA forces were captured by forces affiliated to the internationally recognised government.
The LNA announced that it had lost five soldiers since Thursday.
On Friday, the LNA spokesperson, Ahmed Al-Mismary, said that the military operation aims to achieve stability in Libya and guarantee the safety of citizens in Tripoli. “The army is keen on civilians’ lives. Some of our troops have been captured and we warn against any violations committed against them,” he added.
Al-Mismary said that the LNA forces were fighting the militias on Friday night into Saturday morning near Tripoli’s international airport, about 30km south of the capital.
Haftar’s manoeuvres came simultaneously with the visit of the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to Libya to hold talks with the main rivals of Libya, Khalifa Haftar, who is ruling the eastern part of the country and leads forces backed by Egypt and the UAE, and head of the UN-backed government, Fayez Al-Serraj.
“I leave Libya with a heavy heart and deep concern. I still hope it is possible to avoid a bloody confrontation in and around Tripoli,” Guterres wrote on Twitter.
The UN is supposed to hold a national meeting seeking a political solution for the Libyan crisis and preparing for national elections which are set to be held by the end of this year, following eight years of instability.
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich nations warned on Friday the “eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar against any advance toward the capital Tripoli.” They called for immediate halt of fight in Libya.
The annual meeting brought together the top diplomats from the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, France, Japan and the United States. “We firmly believe that there is no military solution to the Libyan conflict,” the ministers said.
“We strongly oppose any military action in Libya. Any Libyan actor or faction that precipitates further civil conflict is harming innocent people and standing in the way of the peace that Libyans deserve,” the statement said.
Russia, one of the countries supporting Haftar, announced that it is not supporting his military campaign against Tripoli. A spokesperson from the Kremlin said on Friday that Russia seeks a peaceful solution for the Libyan crisis.
Early in March, the UN-backed Al-Serraj said that parliamentary elections will be held by the end of this year. He added that he has lately met with Haftar–who is controlling the eastern parts of Libya.
Although he did not offer details about the meeting with Haftar which was held in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, he said that the election will be held in agreement with Haftar.
In 2011, the Libyan revolution has inflamed violence across the country, following the ousting and death of former President Muammar Gaddafi. Since the ousting of Gaddafi, the country has had rival governments and two parliaments in the west and the east.
Also, since the ouster of Gaddafi, various militias had been formed across the country. Some of these militias are allies of the UN-backed government, such as; the Libya protection forces, Libya revolutionists, the deterrence brigade (Abou Salim), Al-Nawasy brigade, Special deterrence forces, Bakara brigade, Tarhouna brigade, and Halbous brigade in Misrata.
Amidst this chaos, Haftar – who was a former commander in the Libyan army – had returned to Libya after decades in the US. Following his return in 2014, Haftar launched ‘Operation Dignity’ to cleanse the country of “terrorist” militias.
Shortly after that he announced the establishment of the LNA, and positioned himself as a leader of this army which will restore the Libyan state, according to Haftar’s statements. He was recognised as the leader of the LNA by the UAE and Egypt. However, the UN-backed government still refuses that.