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Washington concerned about 'Russian mercenaries on the ground' in Libya

Ahram Online , Wednesday 1 Jan 2020
US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker (Photo: U.S embassy in Cairo official
US Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs David Schenker (Photo: U.S embassy in Cairo official facebook page)
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David Schenker, US Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs, said the United States is concerned about the growing numbers of "Russian mercenaries on the ground" in Libya's ongoing war.
"I am most concerned about increased Russian support for Haftar, increasing numbers of Russian mercenaries on the ground, the increasing amount of violence, shelling of civilian areas in Tripoli, and of course, the prospect of increased Turkish involvement on the side of the GNA," Schenker said.
He stressed that the United States has communicated with both major parties in the Libyan conflict: the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and General Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA), which controls eastern coastal areas, reaching the west of Sirte.
The US diplomat said the United States has expressed its concerns to both parties and "has asked some of the major foreign partners to stay out."
"Military assistance? Right now, we continue to push the diplomatic and negotiated solution. You had Victoria Coates who had a meeting with Haftar not long ago. We’re in constant contact with him. We’ve met with Sarraj and his representatives recently. We will continue to do so at senior levels, and we’ve got a full-court press on the allies, and I expect the partners of both the GNA and the LNA will be there in Germany for this conference later in January," he said in response to a question on whether the US would consider backing the Western-supported government if the situation deteriorates in Tripoli. 
Schenker warned that the "situation is escalating," noting that Washington is "following closely and has been participating in the Berlin process."
He added that the Berlin process, a German plan that aims to push for a diplomatic solution in Libya, "may end up with a summit in January or some sort of ministerial or some sort of high-level meeting."
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