BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union urged the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces of General Khalifa Haftar on Thursday to stop their offensive on the Libyan capital Tripoli, in a statement issued by the bloc’s top diplomat.
The statement had been held up for a day as France and Italy sparred over how to handle the fighting, which has pitted the LNA against forces of the U.N.-recognised government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj in Tripoli.
“The military attack launched by the LNA on Tripoli and the subsequent escalation in and around the capital are endangering civilians, including migrants and refugees, and disrupting the U.N.-led political process, with the risk of serious consequences for Libya and the wider region, including the terrorist threat,” top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini said.
The statement no longer mentioned Haftar directly by name and shifted away from blaming his offensive exclusively for the escalation, compared to a draft version seen by Reuters on Wednesday before it was blocked by France.
While Rome supports Serraj, Paris has relations with Haftar - an example of how the EU’s internal divisions sometimes undercut its sway on the global scene.
“The European Union and its Member States call on all parties to immediately cease all military operations. The LNA and all the forces that have moved into Tripoli or its vicinity must withdraw and the humanitarian truces called by the U.N. must be heeded,” the statement said.
At the request of France, the statement was amended from its draft version to include mentions of the plight of refugees and migrants in Libya, and the presence among the anti-Haftar forces of Islamist militants designated as terrorists by the United Nations.
Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry