Libya PM in Brussels as EU seeks ways to ease crisis

Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj (L), European Council President Charles Michel (R) and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (C) at the start of their meeting at the Europa building in Brussels, Belgium, 08 January 2020. [EPA-EFE/FRANSISCO SECO]

EU leaders met the head of Libya’s UN-recognised government on Wednesday (8 January) as they scramble to contain the escalating crisis on their southern flank amid concerns about illegal migration and terrorism.

Fayez al-Sarraj, whose beleaguered Government of National Accord is facing an offensive by rival forces who control the country’s east, met EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell, who earlier cautioned that Libya was facing a “watershed point”.

Borrell’s warning came after military strongman Khalifa Haftar’s forces — who have support from the UAE, Egypt and Russia — seized control of the coastal city of Sirte as part of his drive to take Tripoli and oust the GNA.

As well as Borrell, Sarraj met the EU Council President Charles Michel and German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who a day earlier took part in emergency talks on Libya with his French, British and Italian counterparts.

“The situation is very dangerous,” warned Borrell, who on Tuesday condemned Turkey for “interference” in the Libya conflict. Michel is due in Turkey this weekend for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara says it has sent 35 Turkish troops who are carrying out training and coordination tasks to support the GNA, insisting they will not take part in any fighting.

Libya has been plunged into chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longstanding dictator Moamer Kadhafi, and is now divided between the GNA and Haftar’s rival authorities based in the country’s east.

Tensions escalated last year when Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli, helped by the UAE and by Russian mercenaries – although Moscow denies this.

The EU is keen to stop the conflict spiralling out of control, fearing that terror groups such as the Islamic State could exploit the instability to launch attacks and concerned the turmoil could lead to more migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean.

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