Trump and Haftar discussed ‘counterterrorism efforts’ in Libya

This grab obtained from a video shows Libyan National Army fighters riding atop an armoured vehicle waving gestures and chanting slogans while driving reportedly in a southern suburb of the capital Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2019
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Trump and Haftar discussed ‘counterterrorism efforts’ in Libya

  • The statement said Trump "recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources”
  • The two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a “stable, democratic political system”

LONDON: Donald Trump and the Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar discussed “counterterrorism efforts” in the country during a phone call this week.
The two men also talked about the need to achieve “peace and stability in Libya” when they spoke on Monday.
Trump’s contact with Haftar, who heads the Libyan National Army (LNA) loyal to the eastern government, is a significant diplomatic boost  for the commander after his forces launched an offensive earlier this month against the rival administration based in the capital Tripoli.
In the call, 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,” the White House said on Friday.
Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton also spoke recently to Haftar.
It was unclear why the White House waited several days to announce the phone call.
The LNA launched its offensive against the capital after securing areas of the country’s south earlier this year. Haftar says his forces, which have advanced into Tripoli’s outskirts,  are fighting to clear the country of “terrorist” elements.
His fighters are making “great sacrifices,” LNA spokesman Ahmed Al-Mesmari said Friday. He added that the LNA is also engaged in a battle against countries that support “terrorism” in Libya. Al-Mesmari did not specify which countries.
He did however claim that extremist militants had travelled from Turkey to Libya to take part in the battle for Tripoli. An array of militias control the capital and parts of the countries east, and many hold a deeply conservative or extremist ideology.
On Thursday, militants attacked one of Haftar’s bases in the far south of the country. The LNA killed 14 of the fighters who launched the assault on the Tamanhint air base near Sabha, Al-Mesmari said during a press conference.
The offensive comes eight years after Arab Spring protests led to the downfall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi and a split in the country between rival governments in the east and west.
The conflict has also split the international community with the UN supporting the Tripoli government but regional powers, Russia and some European countries supporting Haftar. Countries like Egypt see Haftar as a bulwark against extremist groups.
On Thursday, both the US and Russia said they could not support a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Libya.
The British-drafted resolution blames Haftar for the latest flare-up in violence.
The United States did not give a reason for its decision not to support the draft resolution, which would also call on countries with influence over the warring parties to ensure compliance and for unconditional humanitarian aid access in Libya.

(With Reuters)


UK to send third warship HMS Duncan to Gulf

Updated 2 min 38 sec ago
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UK to send third warship HMS Duncan to Gulf

LONDON: Britain will send a third Royal Navy warship to the Gulf, the defense ministry announced Tuesday, while insisting that it did not “reflect an escalation” of tensions with Iran in the region.
Britain has already sent the HMS Duncan, an air defense destroyer, to cover for frigate HMS Montrose while it undergoes maintenance in nearby Bahrain, and will also send frigate HMS Kent “later this year.”
Reports said it would head to the Gulf in mid-September.
HMS Montrose last week warned off three Iranian gunboats that UK officials said were trying to “impede” the progress of a British supertanker through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.
The defense ministry said the HMS Kent would be “taking over” from HMS Duncan, but added that an “occasional overlap of ships when one deployment begins and another ends... is not uncommon,” suggesting that all three could be in the region at some point.
The ministry said the deployments were “long-planned” to ensure “an unbroken presence” in the crucial waterway and “do not reflect an escalation in the UK posture in the region.”
Iranian officials have denied last Wednesday’s incident in the Strait of Hormuz ever happened.
The British government has in any case raised the alert level for ships traveling through Iranian waters to three on a three-point scale, indicating a “critical” threat.
HMS Duncan is an air defense destroyer that carries a set of heavy Harpoon anti-ship missiles and has a company and crew in excess of 280.
Tensions have been escalating in the region for weeks, with US President Donald Trump last month calling off at the last minute an air strike on Iran over its downing of a US spy drone.
The Strait of Hormuz episode occurred a week after UK Royal Marines helped the Gibraltar authorities detain an Iranian tanker that US officials believe was trying to deliver oil to Syria in violation of separate sets of EU and US sanctions.
Iran has bristled at the arrest and issued a series of increasingly ominous warnings to both the United States and Britain about its right to take unspecified actions in reprisal.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt sought to ease tensions on Monday by saying the tanker would be released if Tehran guaranteed it was not heading to Syria.