Pompeo to join Libya peace conference, back truce


Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take part in this weekend's Libya peace conference in Germany and voice support for truce efforts, the State Department said Thursday.

A US official said that Pompeo would call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the war-ravaged nation and a resumption of the UN-backed peace process -- but that the first priority was preserving a fragile truce.

"The imperative would be the continuation of the ceasefire," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar walked away from talks in Moscow this week without signing a permanent truce orchestrated by Russia and Libya.

But German Foreign minister Heiko Maas flew to Benghazi to see Haftar and said the general had agreed to join the Berlin talks and abide by the ceasefire.

The United States backed the European-driven military campaign on behalf of rebels that toppled Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011 but more recently has played a low-key role.

Other foreign powers have become increasingly active in the civil war, with Turkey backing the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among the supporters of Haftar, who has launched a deadly bid to take Tripoli.

The United States officially backs the Government of National Unity but maintains contacts with Haftar, whom President Donald Trump praised after a telephone call last year.

Haftar on Thursday paid a surprise visit to Athens, which is angered it was not invited to Berlin and is engaged in a dispute with Turkey over energy claims involving Libya.

The US official declined to comment on Greece's exclusion, saying the decision was up to Germany.

Pompeo will head immediately after Berlin on a tour of Latin America, visiting Colombia, Costa Rica and Jamaica.

Colombia is a key ally in the US-backed campaign to topple Venezuela's leftist President Nicolas Maduro, who remains in power nearly a year after most Western and Latin American powers declared him illegitimate.

Pompeo's visit to Costa Rica will be the first by a US secretary of state to the longstanding ally in Central America since Hillary Clinton went nearly 10 years ago.