PARIS: Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar told French President Emmanuel Macron that conditions for a cease-fire were not in place, although he would be ready to talk if those conditions were met, a French presidency official said.
Macron and French officials have for several weeks called for an unconditional cease-fire in the battle for Tripoli.
“The distrust we see between the Libyan actors is stronger than ever today,” said a French presidential official after the meeting between Macron and Haftar in Paris.
“When the question of the cease-fire was put on the table, Haftar’s reaction to this was to ask “negotiate with whom for a cease-fire today?” the official said.
He said Haftar considers his rival government in Tripoli “is completely infested by militias and it is not for him to negotiate with representatives of these militias.”
The official said Macron had asked Haftar to make a public step toward a cease-fire and Haftar responded by saying that an inclusive political dialogue was necessary and he would be ready for it if the conditions for a cease-fire were in place.
However, the official said Haftar had given no indication as to when he would be ready for any potential talks.
Haftar also said neither him nor his army were benefiting from oil sales in the east of the country, the official said.
Hafter explained the conditions for halting hostilities “were not met,” while acknowledging that a “political dialogue” is needed to end the standoff
Haftar did not make a statement after meeting with Macron for over an hour, a visit that follows Haftar’s surprise trip to Rome last week for talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
After the talks with Haftar, Macron’s office said the president reiterated France’s priorities in Libya: “Fight against terrorist groups, dismantle trafficking networks, especially those for illegal immigration, and permanently stabilize Libya.”
France and Italy are the two lead European powers seeking to find a solution to years of instability, spreading extremism and a migrant crisis in Libya which fell into chaos after the NATO-backed toppling of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
The UN envoy for Libya warned Tuesday the battle for Tripoli was “just the start of a long and bloody war” and called for immediate steps to cut off arms flows fueling the fighting.
The weeks of fighting have killed 510 people and wounded 2,467, according to the latest toll from the World Health Organization.
More than 75,000 people have fled their homes, according to the United Nations, while 100,000 are trapped by the conflict.