Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar said in a meeting on Wednesday with French President Emmanuel Macron that he cannot work toward a cease-fire because he has no one with whom to negotiate.
Haftar is leading a military offensive on the Libyan capital of Tripoli and the forces loyal to Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, who runs the U.N.-supported government.
During a more than hour-long closed door meeting, Macron asked Haftar to work toward a cease-fire and a return to the political process, according to a statement from Macron’s office.
The closed-door meeting came two weeks after Macron hosted Libya’s struggling U.N.-backed prime minister, who has denounced Haftar offensive as an attempted coup. Macron’s office has expressed support for Sarraj.
French sources indicated that Haftar used the meeting to justify his offensive on Tripoli.
The French sources said that at the end of the meeting, Haftar recognized that inclusive political discussions are necessary, and he agreed that, when conditions are right, to the relaunching of political dialogue.
The death toll from the fighting stood at 510 on Sunday, according to the World Health Organization, mainly combatants but also including civilians. Tens of thousands have been displaced or trapped by Hifter’s offensive.
The U.N. envoy for Libya warned on Tuesday that the oil-rich nation was “on the verge of descending into a civil war” that could imperil its neighbors. Ghassan Salame told the U.N. Security Council that extremists from the Islamic State group and al-Qaida are already exploiting the security vacuum.