US urges Libya ceasefire, protection of oil

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Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday backed calls for a ceasefire in Libya, urging the warring parties to keep out Russian influence and preserve the country's oil.

Libya's UN-recognized government has made significant headway in recent weeks in fighting back strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose backer Egypt has called for a ceasefire.

But the Government of National Accord is hoping to take back the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to Libya's oil fields.

"Quick and in-good-faith negotiations are now required to implement a ceasefire and relaunch the UN-led intra-Libyan political talks," Pompeo told reporters, shortly after European leaders also backed a truce.

"It's time for all Libyans on all sides to act so that neither Russia nor any other country can interfere in Libya's sovereignty for its own gain," he said.

"Putting Libya on the path to economic recovery means preserving Libyan oil facilities."

The National Oil Company since Sunday has resumed production at two oil fields including the country's largest after Haftar's forces were driven out.

A UN report found that Haftar has enjoyed support from a shadowy Russian mercenary group, with Washington charging the sophisticated equipment on the ground could only come from Moscow.

The United States officially backs the Government of National Accord, which has been boosted by military assistance from Turkey.

But President Donald Trump injected confusion last year by praising Haftar, who is also backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, close US allies.