Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar has met with UAE leaders for talks on military cooperation, state media said today, days after announcing the retaking of second city Benghazi from jihadists. Haftar, who has visited the United Arab Emirates regularly in recent months, held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan Saturday on “joint cooperation between the two countries… in combating extremism and terrorist organisations,” state news agency WAM said.
The United Nations in June released a report accusing the UAE of supplying helicopters and other military aircraft to Haftar in violation of a UN arms embargo. Haftar, the head of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, on Wednesday announced the “total liberation” of Benghazi, three years after it was overrun by jihadists.
Six years after the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, chaos continues to engulf Libya as militants fight for power and access to the country’s vast oil reserves. The unrest has provided fertile ground for extremist groups, some with ties to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
The UAE in May hosted a meeting between Haftar and rival Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), in a bid to mediate in the political conflict. Haftar does not recognise the authority of the Tripoli-based GNA, instead backing an alternate government based in the country’s east.