Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar told French President Emmanuel Macron that conditions for a cease-fire were not in place, although he would be ready to talk if those conditions were met, a French presidency official said.
Macron and French officials have for several weeks called for an unconditional cease-fire in the battle for Tripoli after Haftar last month launched an offensive on the Libyan capital.
“The distrust we see between the Libyan actors is stronger than ever today,” said a French presidential official after the meeting between Macron and Haftar in Paris.
“When the question of the cease-fire was put on the table, Haftar’s reaction to this was to ask, ‘Negotiate with whom for a cease-fire today?'” the official said.
“He considers that the GNA [U.N.-backed Government of National Unity led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj] is completely infested by militias and it is not for him to negotiate with representatives of these militias.”
The official said Macron had asked Haftar to make a public step toward a cease-fire and Haftar responded by saying that an inclusive political dialogue was necessary and he would be ready for it if the conditions for a cease-fire were in place.
Macron met Serraj earlier this month, but a day after meeting him, Serraj’s administration asked 40 foreign firms including French oil major Total to renew their licences or have their operations suspended.
Tripoli is home to the internationally-recognized administration, but some European countries such as France have also supported eastern military commander Haftar as a way to fight militants in a country in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Haftar also said neither him nor his army were benefiting from oil sales in the east of the country, the official said.