Trump speaks to Libyan army leader Khalifa Haftar

A White House statement said Trump "recognised Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism."
Sunday 21/04/2019
 Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends a General Security conference, in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017. (Reuters)
Libya's eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar attends a General Security conference, in Benghazi, Libya, October 14, 2017. (Reuters)

The White House said Friday that President Donald Trump spoke by phone to Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern-based Libyan National Army, and discussed "ongoing counterterrorism efforts" by the military leader as he marches on Tripoli.

A White House statement said Trump "recognised Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system."

It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call, which took place on Monday. Europe and the Gulf have been divided over a push to seize Tripoli by Haftar's LNA forces.

On Thursday, both the United States and Russia said they could not support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya at this time.

Trump arrived on Thursday at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, for the Easter weekend.

Russia objects to the British-drafted resolution blaming Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence when the LNA advanced to the outskirts of Tripoli earlier this month, diplomats said.

The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya.

Some UN diplomats have suggested the United States might be trying to buy time as President Donald Trump's administration works out how to deal with the latest developments in Libya.

"I think there are a range of views in Washington on the policy side and they haven't reconciled them and they're not entirely certain where the president is on it," said a senior UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"The American system is trying to evaluate all the scenarios and work out which one is in America's best interest and just hasn't done that yet," the diplomat said.

The North African country has been gripped by anarchy since former leader Muammar Qaddafi was toppled in 2011.

White House national security adviser John Bolton also spoke recently to Haftar.

Jalel Harchaoui, research fellow at the Clingendael Institute international relations think tank in The Hague, said the Trump phone call was tantamount to supporting Haftar's operation and thus is "creating an environment where a military intervention by foreign states, like Egypt, is likelier."

(AP, Reuters)