Libyan unity PM holds out olive branch to renegade general
Libya's "unity government" prime minister has called for a national reconciliation initiative to repair the divisions in his fragmented country, and said he had "no reservations" about reconciling with the powefurl renegade general, Khalifa Haftar.
Fayez Seraj told the Reuters news agency: "We are open to all political factions... I have no reservations. Anything that helps solve the Libyan crisis and that can open bottlenecks, we are ready to meet anyone."
Seraj, whose UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli is opposed by Haftar and a rival administration in Tobruk, repeated his call for talks with Haftar, whose recent seizure of ports in the "oil crescent" has risked deepening the long-standing east-west divisions and alarmed the West.
The takeovers marked the first time pro-GNA forces directly clashed with soldiers loyal to Haftar and opened the way for the first oil sales out of the ports in two years.
Haftar's forces handed operational control to the National Oil Corporation (NOC), which Seraj said operated under the Presidential Council, the executive branch of the GNA.
The NOC sent 776,000 barrels from Ras Lanuf to Italy, Libyan port officials said last week.
There have also been widespread protests against the GNA in Libya, due to ongoing instability and economic chaos.
"In the last five years, Libya has been through a very difficult and critical phase ... many political divisions," Seraj said in New York, where he was attending an annual UN gathering of world leaders. "There was disintegration of the social fabric as a result of bloody conflicts.
"So we need a real reconciliation between Libyans inside and Libyans abroad ... there will be no exclusion of any political faction," he said. "Reconciliation will provide political stability, which will give way for economic stability."
Seraj struck a conciliatory tone over Haftar's oil port seizures but warned that protection of the vital installations had to be done by the internationally recognised government.
"We would not have hoped that there would be escalation in the area but what happened has happened ... and we tried to deal with it with wisdom and calculation," Seraj said.
"But we sent a clear message that oil installations must be protected and should not be damaged ... Whoever protects the oil must be under the umbrella of the Presidential Council," he said.
Haftar, who has been waging a military campaign against militants and other opponents in Benghazi and the east, and his backers in eastern Libya have been in a stand-off with the GNA for months. They have blocked a parliamentary vote to endorse the GNA and challenged the UN-mediated deal to unify Libya.
Haftar also has resisted the GNA's efforts to integrate his self-styled Libyan National Army into the national armed force.
The eastern-based parliament has twice rejected lists of ministers put forward by the GNA's leadership, or Presidential Council, which is meant to represent all sides of Libya's fractured politics.