Friday 22 September 2017

Britain's Johnson meets Libyan strongman, urges dialogue

Britain's Johnson meets Libyan strongman, urges dialogue
(AFP 08/25/17)

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar on Thursday during a visit to Benghazi, officials said.

Their talks focused on "the development of the political situation in Libya", Haftar's spokesman Khalifa al-Abidi said without giving further details.

Johnson said the meeting came in support of efforts to amend a December 2015 UN-backed deal for a unity government in Libya.

"We are reaching out to all sides in Libya in support of the United Nations work to amend the Libyan Political Agreement so that it delivers for all Libyans," he said in a statement.

Britain's foreign ministry said Johnson was the first British minister to visit Libya's second city since 2011, the year longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was overthrown and killed in a NATO-backed uprising.

On Wednesday, Johnson met Libya's unity government chief Fayez al-Sarraj, whose Government of National Accord has struggled to impose its authority across the conflict-ridden North African country.

Haftar backs a rival administration based in Libya's east that has refused to recognise the GNA, product of the 2015 deal.

The accord gave no role to Haftar, who enjoys the support of Libya's parliament.

But Johnson said Thursday he believed Haftar, whose forces also control much of Libya's desert south, "has a role to play in the political process".

"Ultimately it will be for Libyans to decide what an acceptable compromise looks like," he said.

"I have encouraged all sides to resolve their differences by dialogue, not conflict, and to respect international human rights law."

Sarraj met Haftar near Paris in July in a bid to reach a peace agreement in Libya.

Their commitment to holding elections was endorsed by the UN Security Council, of which Britain is a member.

Johnson last visited Libya in May, holding talks in Tripoli as well as in the eastern city of Tobruk where the rival administration is based.

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