U.S. Expresses Concern Over Escalation of Libyan Conflict After Russian Intervention

'With increased numbers of mercenaries on the ground, we think it's changing the landscape of the conflict and intensifying it,' says U.S. official

Reuters
Reuters
Security members inspect the site of an overnight air strike, which hit a residential district in Tripoli, December 10, 2019.
Security members inspect the site of an overnight air strike, which hit a residential district in Tripoli, December 10, 2019. Credit: ISMAIL ZITOUNY / REUTERS
Reuters
Reuters

The United States is very concerned about the intensification of the conflict in Libya, with a rising number of reported Russian mercenaries supporting Khalifa Haftar's forces on the ground, a senior State Department official said on Saturday

The United States continues to recognize the Government of National Accord led by Fayez al-Serraj, the official said, but added that Washington is not taking sides in the conflict and is talking to all stakeholders who could be influential in trying to forge an agreement.

"With the increased numbers of reported Wagner forces and mercenaries on the ground, we think it's changing the landscape of the conflict and intensifying it," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, referring to a shadowy group of mercenaries known as Wagner.

Libya has been divided since 2014 into rival military and political camps based in the capital Tripoli and the east. Serraj's government is in conflict with forces led by Khalifa Haftar based in eastern Libya.

Haftar is backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and most recently Russian mercenaries, according to diplomats and Tripoli officials.

Turkey has backed Libya's internationally recognized government led by Fayez al-Serraj and the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding on maritime cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean, a move the U.S. official described as "unhelpful" and "provocative."

"Now with the maritime boundaries, you're drawing in Greece and Cyprus ... From the United States' perspective, this is a concern ... It's not the time to be provoking more instability in the Mediterranean," the official said.

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