Pompeo calls for immediate halt to fighting Libya while GNA boasts of ‘advances’

Official Turkish news reports highlight the contribution of Turkish-supplied drones.
Saturday 23/05/2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks the press at the State Department in Washington, May 20. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks the press at the State Department in Washington, May 20. (AFP)

WASHINGTON –US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Libya’s Turkish-backed government May 22 for a ceasefire and criticised the flow of weapons as Tripoli pushes back against a year-old offensive by the Libyan National Army, headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

In a phone call to Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, Pompeo reiterated “US opposition to the continued level of weapons and munitions being brought into the country,” the State Department said.

Destroyed vehicle after capture of al-Watiya airbase, southwest of Tripoli, Libya May 18. (AFP)
Destroyed vehicle after capture of al-Watiya airbase, southwest of Tripoli, Libya May 18. (AFP)

Pompeo and Sarraj “emphasised the importance of an immediate halt to the fighting and return to political dialogue,” a statement said.

The international conference held in Germany last January called for a cease-fire and a return to negotiations, but increased Turkish interference and Ankara’s continued deployment of mercenaries as well as attacks on LNA positions led to the failure of international efforts and an escalation of military operations.

Pompeo’s statement did not name any country for sending in weapons, but the GNA’s key military supplier is Turkey, which signed deals with Tripoli last November.

The signed agreements paved the way for Turkish military intervention in Libya and produced a maritime border demarcation map that is favourable to Turkey in the Mediterranean.

The deals also led to increased military involvement by Turkey in Libya, where Ankara is supporting militants and militias loyal to the GNA with military equipment and mercenaries in their fight against the LNA.

Pompeo’s call for a ceasefire is in contrast to GNA statements boasting about its military advances and ignoring any international calls for a truce.

A report last month by the International Crisis Group said that Turkey has sent into Libya at least 100 military officers, shiploads of weapons and aerial defences as well as at least 2,000 pro-Turkish fighters from Syria. Official Turkish news reports have been highlighting the contribution of Turkish-supplied drones to the developments in Libya, especially the capture of al-Watiya airbase.

On May 20, a statement by the White House noted US President Donald Trump and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed their concern about “worsening foreign interference” in Libya and “agreed on the need for urgent de-escalation.”

Libya and its neighbours
Libya and its neighbours

The United Nations envoy to Libya, Stephanie Williams, warned the Security Council  May 19 that the escalating fighting, driven by a flood of foreign-supplied weapons, warplanes and mercenaries, risked “turning the Libyan conflict into a pure proxy war.”

The GNA announced May 18 that it had recaptured al-Watiya airbase, after the withdrawal of LNA forces from all front lines in Tripoli.

The LNA, which announced a unilateral ceasefire, said it was hoping to avoid bloodshed during the final days of Ramadan and allow people to prepare for the holiday, according to spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari.