Mike Pompeo urges political solution in Libya in call with Egypt’s foreign minister

The Libyan National Army said they attacked Turkish military sites on Saturday

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 15: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes remarks to members after a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the State Department August 15, 2019 in Washington, DC. Prime Minister Hariri had a meeting with Secretary Pompeo prior to the remarks and it is his third visit to Washington as Lebanons Prime Minister.   Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP
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The Libyan conflict needs a political solution, US chief diplomat Mike Pompeo and his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry agreed in a phone call on Monday.

A State Department said the two shared their “concern over prolonged violence and instability in Libya,” as they reiterated Egypt and the US’s commitment to crushing terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, whose stronghold is in eastern Libya, launched an attack on Tripoli in April vowing to cleanse the capital of the militia and extremist groups they say control the city and its environs. Well over a thousand have been killed, mostly fighters, and around 100,000 civilians displaced since fighting began.

Tripoli is nominally under the control of the UN-backed Government of Accord but critics say it is at the whim of militias, that include hardline groups.

The LNA has occupied some areas in western Libya but has faced stiff resistance from a coalition of armed local groups, who have bandied together despite previous differences, on the edge of Tripoli.

As a result of the impasse, both sides have often resorted to air strikes although on Monday the LNA released footage of ground troops being sent to Tripoli as reinforcements. The LNA refused to confirm the number of fighters for security reasons.

Also speaking on Monday, the newly-arrived US ambassador to Libya Richard Norland warned of his growing concern over attacks on civil aviation facilities.

“In my introductory conversations with leaders on all sides – and without attributing the attacks to any one party – I stressed that the United States sees great risk in the escalation of attacks on civilian airports, and if a civilian airliner were struck this would be catastrophic,” Mr Norland said in a statement.

The LNA has frequently attacked Tripoli’s sole functioning airport, Mitiga, which is also a military base, and other sites in western Libya. Field Marshal Haftar’s forces say they are targeting Turkish military installations and drones.

An LNA spokesman said it carried out 12 airstrikes on Saturday night on an airbase in Misrata, the city in north-western Libya which is staunchly against Field Marshal Haftar.

Among the targets were military equipment it is claimed came from Ankara and fighter jets used in the Tripoli conflict.

In a relatively rare move, a picture was released by the LNA of Field Marshal Haftar personally overseeing Saturday’s strikes. An accompanying statement said his forces were targeting a Turkish operating room and would continue to block the establishment of foreign bases “that support and finance terrorism inside Libya.”