Along with four other countries, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has called on Libya’s rival political camps to “show restraint” amid reports of serious military escalations in the troubled North African country.
Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on Friday voiced its “surprise” with the UAE’s position, noting Abu Dhabi’s open support for Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government based in the city of Al-Bayda.
On Thursday evening, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lulwa al-Khater told Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel that Haftar’s forces had launched a military campaign with a view to capturing Tripoli, where Libya’s UN-backed government is headquartered.
“Qatar strongly condemns this serious military escalation by Haftar’s forces, which comes despite recent breakthroughs on the peace track… under the auspices of the UN,” al-Khater said.
She went on to question why the UAE had chosen to support the five-nation appeal for “restraint” in Libya, which was also signed by the U.S., Britain, France and Italy.
“The UAE is actively supporting Haftar’s forces on the ground,” al-Khater said. “Are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes?”
“If this is the case, we call on the UAE’s partner states to urge Abu Dhabi to end this double-speak and match its rhetoric with its actions on the ground,” she added.
On Thursday, in a recorded message posted on Facebook, Haftar announced the launch of operations to capture Tripoli.
“Today we continue the struggle and answer the calls of the people of Tripoli,” he says in the message.
Shortly afterward, Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the Tripoli-based government, ordered the government’s security forces to “prepare for — and respond to — any threats aimed at destabilizing the region”.
Earlier Thursday, Haftar had reportedly deployed forces to western parts of the country — including positions near Tripoli — with the stated aim of “purging the region of terrorist groups and strongholds”.
Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.
Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in the eastern city of Al-Bayda, to which Haftar is linked, and the UN-backed government in Tripoli.