British ambassador meets Haftar as clashes rage in Libya's oil crescent

#LibyaCrisis

Peter Millett meets Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi as his forces battle UN-backed unity government in country's oil crescent

Haftar met Millett in Benghazi on Wednesday (screengrab)
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Last update: 
Tuesday 21 March 2017 10:13 UTC
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Britain's ambassador to Libya met Khalifa Haftar as the Libyan general's forces claimed victory in an weeks-long battle with the UN-backed "unity government" for control of the country's lucrative oil crescent.

Peter Millett reportedly met Haftar on Wednesday in Benghazi, days after the general was received by members of Britain's ruling Conservative party. He flew in specifically to meet the general, according to the Libya Herald, and met no one else.

A positive meeting and part of the UK's wider diplomatic outreach to promote stability in Libya 

- British foreign office

According to the Herald, Millett said the meeting was "satisfying and useful" and part of "programme of outreach" by British officials.

A spokesman for Britain's foreign office told Middle East Eye: "UK government officials regularly meet with a wide range of Libyans.

"This was a positive meeting and part of the UK's wider diplomatic outreach to promote stability in Libya through peaceful dialogue and to encourage all Libyans to work together to alleviate the suffering of the Libyan people."

The meeting came amid fierce fighting in the "oil crescent" between Haftar's "Libyan National Army" and militias supporting the UN-backed unity government, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli.

LNA forces on Wednesday said they took the Ras Lanuf and Sidra export terminals.

A military source from the LNA said GNA the forces had withdrawn under the pressure of repeated attacks on Wednesday.

Libya's oil facilities, which are of fundamental importance to the struggling Libyan economy, had been under the control of forces loyal to the the GNA.

Haftar has consistently opposed the Government of National Accord.

While it is backed by the UN, foreign powers including the UK have shown support for Haftar and provided assistance as his forces fight the "Shura Council of Benghazi" - which Haftar likens to a terrorist organisation.

Millett in October said he wanted Haftar to be part of Libya's national reconciliation process. 

Russia has also expressed support for Haftar, amid reports Moscow has agreed to arm the general's soldiers.

The Libya Herald reported a high-ranking Libyan National Army source as saying Millett expressed regret that much had been said about the UK’s apparently negative role in Libya. 

Millett was among a number of Western ambassadors who condemned the fighting - but did not take sides.

On Twitter, the British ambassador posted a joint statement by the UK, US and France, saying they "strongly condemned" the fighting in the oil crescent and calling for an immediate ceasefire.