The interior minister of the Libyan UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) has accused France of backing renegade eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have launched an offensive to control Tripoli, and called for an end to security cooperation with the European Country.
Fathi Bashagha Thursday asked his department to halt all forms of cooperation with France. The EU country has been giving the GNA security trainings, among other fields of cooperation.
This is the GNA’s first direct accusation of France since the start of the offensive by Haftar forces on Tripoli two weeks ago. The UN-backed government has accused foreign countries of backing the eastern military warlord whom it has designated as “war criminal”.
The French foreign ministry has rejected the accusations as baseless.
“Tripoli’s statements on diplomatic support to Haftar are completely unfounded,” said a senior official at the French Foreign Ministry.
“The legitimate interlocutor of the President of the Republic (Emmanuel Macron) is Prime Minister Sarraj,” the French official said, adding that the President had last Monday a phone talk with Sarraj to whom he reaffirmed his support as the Libyan legitimate Prime Minister.
Early this week, Tunisia said it detained 13 armed French nationals holding diplomatic passports after they crossed on the Tunisian territory from Libya. The men in 4×4 vehicles according to local reports allegedly came from the Libyan city of Garyan where they had been advising Haftar’s forces.
The French embassy in Tunis said in a statement the French nationals were members of a security detail attached to the French embassy in Libya.
France had hosted several talks between GNA leader Fayez Serraj and his rival Khalifa Haftar.