UN envoy to Libya warns of 'conflagration'
April 18 2019 06:02 PM
Ghassan Salame
Ghassan Salame, UN special envoy for Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)


The UN's Libya envoy warned Thursday of ‘a widening conflagration’ in the North African country, saying international divisions had encouraged strongman Khalifa Haftar to launch his assault on Tripoli.

But for now, Ghassan Salame told AFP in an exclusive interview, there was ‘deadlock’ in fighting south of the capital between Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) and the internationally recognised government.

‘After the very first successes of the Libyan National Army two weeks ago, we are witnessing a military deadlock,’ he said.

Fighting broke out on April 4 when Haftar and his LNA, based in the country's east, launched an offensive to take Tripoli, the western seat of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar's offensive forced the UN to postpone a national conference that was to draw up a roadmap to elections in a bid to turn the page on years of chaos since the 2011 ouster of Moamer Kadhafi.

The fighting has so far left at least 205 people dead and more than 900 wounded, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

More than 25,000 people have been displaced by the clashes, the International Organization for Migration said the previous day.

Salame told AFP that international divisions had ‘encouraged’ Haftar, who is backed by Russia and seen by his allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates as a bulwark against Islamists.

The UN Security Council was divided Wednesday on how to address the crisis in Libya after fresh negotiations on a draft resolution demanding a ceasefire in Tripoli failed to yield agreement.

Russia has sought to block any language that criticised Haftar's offensive as a threat to Libya's stability.

Germany, which holds the council presidency, called for an urgent meeting after Tripoli witnessed heavy fighting.

The council was due to meet Thursday to hear a briefing on the situation on the ground and ‘consult on the way forward,’ according to a note sent by German diplomats and seen by AFP.

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