The head of Libya’s UN-recognised unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, said yesterday that his forces were “determined” to take over the entire country from his rival, military commander Khalifa Haftar.
“Our fight continues and we are determined to defeat the enemy, impose state control on the whole of the homeland and destroy all those who jeopardise the construction of a civil, democratic and modern state,” Sarraj said in Ankara after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his main supporter.
Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) said yesterday it was back in full control of the capital and its suburbs after more than a year of fighting off an offensive by eastern strongman Haftar.
The announcement came after GNA forces retook the capital’s civilian airport on Wednesday, more than a year after losing it in Haftar’s initial drive on the capital.
GNA forces, boosted by Turkish drones and air defences, have made a string of gains from Haftar’s forces in recent months.
Haftar is supported by neighbouring Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as well as Russia.
The United Nations has urged outside powers to respect a deal reached at a January conference in Berlin, ending foreign meddling and upholding a much-violated arms embargo.
While a January truce brokered by Turkey and Russia has been repeatedly violated, the UN said talks on a ceasefire resumed Wednesday, welcoming it as a “positive” first step.
In Ankara, Sarraj said: “We will always stay loyal to the blood of our martyrs and the sacrifices of our heroes, hence our decision not to sit at the table with the war criminal (Haftar) because he has never been a partner in the political process.”
He also urged countries backing Haftar to stop doing so.
“Your bet has failed and we will sue you after you have tasted defeat at the doors of Tripoli. Leave us alone.”
For his part, Erdogan welcomed the recent advances made by the Tripoli government on the battlefield saying it was right to use “self-defence”, adding that Haftar cannot remain at the negotiating table.
“An individual who constantly threatens the future of Libya cannot have a representation capability at the table,” the Turkish leader said.
He also criticised outside countries backing Haftar, saying they were “the biggest obstacle before peace” in Libya. “History will judge them.”
Erdogan also said Turkey would advance its co-operation with Libya including searching for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean, as part of a bilateral maritime deal reached between the two governments.
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