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Iran Press TV

Libya's rebel commander urges forces to rally against Turkey

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 24 May 2020 7:18 AM

The self-styled commander of the rebels in Libya, Khalifa Haftar, has called on his forces to rally against Turkey, which militarily backs the government in the country's capital, Tripoli.

Haftar urged his self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) forces in an audio message on Saturday to battle the "colonial" intervention by Turkey, in an allusion to the time Libya was controlled by the former Ottoman Empire.

Forces aligned with the Tripoli-based government have made major advances in recent weeks and retaken areas controlled by the rebels, including a key air base on the outskirts of the capital.

The rebels, backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, also announced on Saturday that they had withdrawn from some areas, but also claimed to have killed or captured a number of Libyan government forces in attacks on the areas surrounding Tripoli.

Haftar has threatened to respond with a massive air campaign to the government's gains, with experts having warned of the risk of a new round of escalation as the warring sides' external backers pour in new weaponry.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview on NTV that Ankara "will not bow to threats by Haftar or anyone else," adding that, "The international community must take a stand against Haftar. We need to go back to the table for a political solution as soon as possible."

On Wednesday, the United Nations (UN)'s acting envoy for Libya called on the Security Council to press countries to end their sponsorship of warring sides in the North African country, warning that the influx of arms and mercenaries would aggravate the conflict.

Government forces retake more areas near capital

In yet another victory against the rebels, Libyan government forces said on Saturday they had advanced into several districts and seized three barracks from Haftar's LNA in the south of Tripoli.

Mohamad Gnounou, a spokesman for government forces, said in a statement that they had "regained control of the Yarmouk, Hamza, and al-Sawarikh camps" south of the capital.

Gnounou added that Haftar's rebels were fleeing the area but the government forces "continue to pursue" them.

Trump, Erdogan discuss Libya in phone call

In another development on Saturday, US President Donald Trump called for a "rapid de-escalation" in the Libyan conflict during a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The White House said Trump had expressed concern about the "worsening foreign interference" in Libya.

Libya has been in chaos since 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk, supported militarily by Haftar's rebels.

The rebels launched a deadly offensive to capture Tripoli in April last year but have so far failed to advance past the city's outskirts.

International attempts to bring about peace between the two warring sides have also failed.

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