The United States is investigating and trying to get to the bottom of reports that Libya’s eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar’s plane was in the Venezuelan capital Caracas last week, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday, as part of an attempt to secure an oil deal.
Speaking at a teleconference, David Schenker, Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Bureau at the State Department said the allegations were concerning and added that U.S. and United Nations sanctions applied to those exporting Libyan oil outside legal auspices of Libya’s National Oil Corporation.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the United States needs to play a more active role in Libya, both in achieving a ceasefire and in political talks, as Libya’s warring sides restarted U.N.-led ceasefire talks.
Turkey supports Fayez al Serraj’s internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), whose forces have in recent weeks repelled a 14-month assault on Tripoli by Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
The LNA is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia. While Washington has said it opposes Haftar’s offensive, it has not thrown its support behind the GNA. It has also lambasted Russian involvement in support of Haftar.
Cavusoglu said the involvement of the United States, a NATO ally, was important to protect the alliance’s interests, adding that Turkish and U.S. officials would discuss possible steps, as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed during a call on Monday.
“For some reason, the United States has not been that active in Libya, perhaps because of past traumas,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster NTV.
“The United States needs to play a more active role, both for achieving a ceasefire and in the political process.”
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the resumption of U.N.-led talks between Libya’s warring sides and urged speedy negotiations to achieve a ceasefire, as a new round of talks began after the GNA’s rapid gains.
Cavusoglu, who dismissed a ceasefire proposal by Egypt as an attempt to save Haftar after losses on the battlefield, said on Thursday that only a lasting ceasefire under U.N. auspices would be acceptable.
Trump also discussed Libya with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday, and the two leaders discussed ways to resume U.N. ceasefire talks and the departure of all foreign forces from Libya.