By Sami Zaptia.
London, 20 April 2019:
For the second Friday running, thousands took part in demonstrations in Tripoli and Misrata against Khalifa Hafter and his Libyan National Army (LNA) for their attack on Tripoli.
Besides Hafter and his LNA, France was singled out for criticism as many demonstrators wore yellow vests to mimic the anti Emmanuel Macron Paris demonstrators.
The war losses continued, meanwhile, as the World Health Organization reported 227 deaths and 1,128 wounded.
While Britain and Italy continued to seek an end to the fighting and a return to dialogue, LNA Spokesperson, Ahmed Mesmari “welcomed the international political support for the LNA”.
The welcome comes after the revelation by the Whitehouse on Friday that Donald Trump had spoken by phone to Khalifa Hafter earlier in the week. They had discussed “ongoing counterterrorism efforts”.
A White House statement said that in the phone call on Monday, Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system”.
Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan also said that Trump supported Haftar’s “role in counterterroism” and that Washington needed Haftar’s “support in building democratic stability there in the region.”
The U.S. stance on Libya widens and brings into the open the international split on Libya policy and puts Ghassan Salame and UNSMIL in even more difficult position.
It also questions the international paradox of how on the one hand, the U.S and France maintain they fully support Salame, UNSMIL and the exclusive recognition of the Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, while, on the other hand, and in practice, they support Hafter militarily.
On the battlefield, the LNA claimed that they had gone on the offensive on a number of fronts in the Tripoli fighting. They admitted that fierce fighting has been ongoing for a number of days near Kasarat, Swani and Aziziya and claim that they have now recovered the city of Aziziya that they were reported to have lost yesterday to the pro Faiez Serraj forces.