The UAE attempted to drive a wedge between the internationally-recognised Tripoli government and a powerful central Libyan militia, The New Arab has learned, with a meeting between leaders of rival militias cancelled after US protests.
Abu Dhabi reportedly planned a meeting between renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar and Misrata authorities in the UAE capital, but it was cancelled after the US learned of the plan to woo powerful Misrata militias away from the internationally-recognised government.
The cancelled talks – which were due to take place in Abu Dhabi earlier this month – would have brought together the militia leaders with an attempt of uniting the factions under Haftar’s command.
The meeting planned to include Misrata-based militia leader Mohammad al-Haddad who was recently appointed the UN-backed government’s chief of the “central military zone” and the head of the powerful Halbus Brigade, a source from within Haftar’s leadership told The New Arab on Sunday.
“The meeting – which was arranged by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed – would have touched on ways to reconcile between Hafar and Misrata and attempt to convince the militias to accept Haftar in the position of military commander,” the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
The source said that the UAE has been working to persuade the powerful militias, which mostly back the unity government, to form a coalition with Haftar’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army.
He explained that the meeting was cancelled after US diplomats protested.
“The diplomats did not give clear reasons for their opposition but they spoke about the importance of political agreement instead of a military solution. One US official asked the UAE to promise that drawn out ‘Benghazi-like scenario’ wouldn’t happen in Tripoli,” the source said.
Haftar announced the “total liberation” of Benghazi earlier this month, three years after it was overrun by extremist groups.
In March, clashes broke out in the capital Tripoli between armed groups from Misrata and local militias.
The Government of National Accord [GNA], which relies heavily on the military manpower of Misrata, quickly stepped in to broker a ceasefire deal with municipal representatives of the two cities.
Misratan groups are part of a powerful military coalition named al-Bunyan al-Marsus, which recently defeated the local Islamic State group franchise in the central Libyan city of Sirte – under the banner of the GNA.
The UAE in May hosted a meeting between Haftar and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj in a bid to mediate in the political conflict.
This month, the Libyan strongman met with UAE leaders for talks on military cooperation.
Haftar does not recognise the authority of the Tripoli-based GNA, instead backing an alternate government based in the country’s east.
Six years after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, chaos continues to engulf Libya as militants vie for power and access to the country’s vast oil reserves.