Libya’s Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar ‘open to dialogue’

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have been battling to capture the seat of the UN-recognised government in Tripoli since April, has said he is open to dialogue after repeatedly rejecting UN calls for talks.

“When all is said and done, we need dialogue and we need to sit down” at the negotiating table, Field Marshal Hafar said in a statement issued on Wednesday night on the eve of a special session on Libya on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Field Marshal Haftar stressed, however, that dialogue was “not possible so long as terrorist groups and criminal militias control Tripoli,” a reference to the myriad militias that back the Government of National Accord.

He welcomed the special session to be co-chaired by France and Italy in New York later on Thursday, saying that he hoped it would come up with “proposals that serve Libya’s interests and at the same time restore security and stability”.

Earlier this month, Field Marshal Haftar, whose forces control eastern Libya and most of the far-flung oases and oilfields of the desert south, rejected a UN call for renewed peace talks, saying that a military solution was the best way of bringing the conflict to an end.

Speaking at the Concordia conference in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Monday, Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj called for a resumption of the UN-led peace process.

“We can hold a Libya forum where all of the factions and people in Libya are invited and can work out a road map for the forthcoming stage, including parliamentary and presidential elections,” said Mr Al Sarraj, leader of the Government of National Accord.

“The UN can handle the logistics. We are not going to abandon our principles.”

He said he regretted the failure of international conferences in France and Italy, and a meeting with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army. Since the breakdown of talks, fighting has cost hundreds of lives in Tripoli, where the LNA is battling militias allied to the GNA.

“We were keen on getting all of the factions together and the only condition is that they sign up to the national accord,” Mr Al Sarraj said.