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Macron to meet Libya PM Sarraj as stalemate with Haftar deepens

Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at International Conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, 29 May 29 2018.
Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj shakes hands with French President Emmanuel Macron at International Conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, 29 May 29 2018. Etienne Laurent/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron is to host Libya's Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, who has accused Paris of supporting his rival, the military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

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Relations between the two leaders have soured since 4 April, when Haftar launched an attack on Tripoli where Sarraj's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) is based, triggering fighting that has claimed nearly 400 lives.

Sarraj claimed France had switched sides to support a "dictator", in comments deemed "unacceptable and unfounded" by the presidential source on Tuesday.

"France supports Prime Minister Sarraj and was opposed to Haftar's military offensive against Tripoli," the Elysée source said, while reiterating that France had maintained contacts with actors on both sides of the conflict.

Macron is expected to ask Sarraj about the humanitarian situation and discuss proposals to end the conflict, which appears to have reached a stalemate in recent days.

"But in his entourage and among his supporters there are some extremists, clans and factions which think it's easier to accuse foreigners, in this case the countries which have been the most active, like France," said the Elysée source.

European tour to drum up support for the GNA

On Tuesday, Sarraj met Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who appeared to rule out any military intervention in Libya, followed by a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The French government says it "has coordinated closely" with officials in Rome, Berlin and London in order to ensure a consistent message on Libya.

Britain has pushed for a resolution at the UN Security Council demanding a ceasefire in Libya, but its efforts have foundered against opposition from Russia and the United States.

In an interview with The Guardian on Tuesday, British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt reiterated his call for a ceasefire and has not ruled out the possibility of Haftar having a role in a future Libyan government – despite the Tripoli offensive.

“We do not agree with what Haftar is doing. We do not think it is possible for Haftar to achieve a military victory, and as a government he will not be seen as legitimate by whole swathes of the country. So we want a political process.”
 

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