The Interview

Haftar offensive ‘ended hope of political agreement’, Libya PM Sarraj tells FRANCE 24

Following his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris this Wednesday, Libya's Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), granted an exclusive interview to FRANCE 24. He urged France to adopt "a clear political position" on the situation in Libya and accused his rival, General Khalifa Haftar, of ending all hope of a political settlement to the crisis in the war-torn North African country.


Tensions between Paris and the UN-backed GNA had flared after Haftar began his Tripoli offensive five weeks ago and Sarraj accused the French government of tacitly supporting Haftar's campaign.

France has said it views Haftar, who controls large swathes of the country's east where he has helped curtail Islamic terrorist activities, as a key player in rebuilding Libya after years of strife.

“What we expect of France, considering their friendship with Libya, is for them to have a clear political position on the situation in Libya in the future,” Sarraj told FRANCE 24.

“We were getting close to an agreement and possibly a solution with international backing,” Sarraj added. “But unfortunately, Haftar's decision to attack Tripoli […] has put an end to any hope of reaching a political agreement.”

With foreign powers aghast at the latest flare-up in Libya, Sarraj has been touring European countries this week to call for the international community to step in.

On Tuesday, the Libyan leader met in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who appeared to rule out any military intervention in Libya. He is later to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and may travel to London too.

>> On Libya's UN-backed Sarraj seeks European help to stop Haftar assault

In their talks in Paris on Wednesday, Macron reiterated his support for Sarraj’s administration and called for an unconditional ceasefire to end the hostilities between the two factions.

"The two leaders agreed on the importance of extending and deepening the dialogue with all stakeholders in Libya, including in the east, south and west of the country, and with civil society," the French presidency said in a statement.

It did not specify where any ceasefire line might be drawn, now that Haftar's forces have reached the southern outskirts of Tripoli.

After the initial advance, forces loyal to the GNA launched a counter-offensive that has led to a stalemate on the ground.

The fighting has killed at least 430 people and wounded over 2,000 while displacing 55,000 others, according to UN estimates.

Hopes for a halt in the fighting to mark the onset of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan were dashed this week after Haftar urged his troops to inflict "an even harder" lesson on forces loyal to the country's internationally recognised government.

And the GNA has previously rejected any ceasefire unless Haftar pulls his troops back to the areas they held before the April 4 offensive on the capital, in the south and east of the country.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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