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Senior Haftar-allied Libyan official calls for Israeli support in unprecedented interview with far-right newspaper

Abdul Salam Al-Badri called on Israel to support Haftar's war [Twitter]

Date of publication: 11 June, 2020

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In the first interview of its kind, the deputy prime minister of Libya’s unrecognized east-based government has told an Israeli newspaper that Israel should support Haftar’s war.

The deputy prime minister of Libya’s unrecognized east-based government, Abdul Salam Al-Badri, has called for Israel to support it in its conflict against the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli.

The unrecognized government, based in the city of Tobruk near Libya’s border with Egypt, is allied with General Khalifa Haftar, whose forces have recently retreated in the face of a GNA advance in western Libya.

In an interview with the far-right Israeli newspaper Makor Rishon, Al-Badri directly addressed Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

We have never been and never will be enemies and we hope that you will support us. We ignore the circumstances that have separated us so far.”

Read more: Is Libya on the road to de facto partition?

Al-Badri’s interview is the first given by a Libyan official to an Israeli newspaper. Libya has never recognized Israel and there is overwhelming support for the Palestinian cause among the Libyan people.

However, late last year, Egyptian and Libyan sources revealed to The New Arab that Israel was providing training to Haftar’s militias in “street warfare”.

Al-Badri called on Israel to join a maritime cooperation agreement between Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Lebanon reached in response to a dispute with the Libyan GNA and Turkey over boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea.

In November last year, the GNA and Turkey delineated boundaries between them in the Mediterranean, provoking a furious reaction from other countries in the Eastern Mediterranean, who said the boundaries encroached on international waters.

Turkey has also provided military support for Libya’s GNA, helping it to turn the tide against Khalifa Haftar, whose forces launched an assault on Tripoli in 2019, and take back most of western Libya.

Al-Badri took aim at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his interview, saying that he was “corrupt and crazy” and had “hired the services of thousands of Syrian jihadists with the aim of taking control of Libya’s rich oil fields”.

Russia has also sent Syrian fighters to aid Haftar in his war against the GNA.

The conflict between the Tripoli-based GNA and the unrecognized government allied to Haftar in the east of the country has sparked fears that Libya could be split in two and Al-Badri used separatist language when talking to Makor Rishon.

“We are the people of Cyrenaica,” he said, using a historic term for eastern Libya, “Throughout history we have been a haven for all religions. We have a long history of contact with Israel and the Jewish community.”

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