(Bloomberg) -- Libya’s internationally recognized premier called for a national conference to end a war that threatens to rip apart the North African oil producer, but stressed he wouldn’t back down in the face of an offensive by eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar.
Fayez Al-Sarraj, in a press briefing Sunday in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, proposed the conference be held with the help of the United Nations and that it decide on a road map for elections to take place in 2019.
Sarraj’s overture came after the UN’s Libya envoy, Ghassan Salame, said Security Council members that include the U.S., Russia and France now agree that the violence that’s killed more than 600 people and displaced tens of thousands since April must stop.
But the prime minister’s suggestion fell short of outlining cease-fire lines or a way to include Haftar in negotiations -- something the strongman’s backers say is necessary.
Sarraj proposed that the meeting include “all Libyan parties and members from every area who call for a peaceful solution,” as Haftar’s forces struggle to advance beyond Tripoli’s outskirts.
The effort marks the latest bid by the embattled premier, whose government is backed by the international community, to end the ongoing crisis in the OPEC member country. Haftar’s Libyan National Army launched its offensive after securing the country’s east and south.
Haftar, who heads the country’s most organized militia and describes his fight against armed groups in western Libya as a battle against terrorism, has received backing from Egypt and United Arab Emirates. Sarraj is getting support from Turkey and Qatar, creating a form of proxy war between Middle Eastern rivals. President Donald Trump had also signaled support for the strongman in a phone call, U.S. officials said.
Sarraj stressed anew that there was no military solution to the current crisis and that only a political road map would bring stability. But he pledged to continue fighting against Haftar’s forces and demanded a probe into what he said could be war crimes committed by them.
The Tripoli government has insisted that Haftar withdraw before a cease-fire, something that he’s unlikely to accept. Abdullah Thinni, the prime minister of a Haftar-aligned government in the east, told Sky News the proposal was a “failed attempt in light of the LNA’s advances towards Tripoli.”
Haftar’s backers in the U.A.E and Egypt have continued to support him, although they don’t believe he can take Tripoli, an official with knowledge of their stance told Bloomberg.
On Sunday, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi met the U.A.E’s foreign minister, Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. They repeated their support for the LNA’s self-proclaimed fight against terrorism, but also urged a return to stability so Libya can hold elections, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidency.
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