Libya crisis: UK officials anxious as blame is laid at doors of Gulf allies

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There will be deep unease in Foreign Office over role of Saudi Arabia and UAE

Blame for the renewed Libyan crisis has been laid at the doors of some of Britain’s closest allies in the Gulf, highlighting again how the UK’s commercial interests so often trump its political priorities in the Middle East.

In exchanges in the UK parliament, the shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, traced the crisis to Nato’s overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, an intervention described even by the government minister Mark Field as “calamitous”. She also accused France of supporting Khalifa Haftar’s attack on Tripoli, an accusation that the Élysée Palace strenuously denies. Other MPs blamed Russian meddling.

Libya is on the brink of an all-out civil war that threatens to upend years of diplomatic efforts to reconcile two rival armed political factions. An advance led by Khalifa Haftar, the warlord from the east of the country, has diplomats scrambling and the UN appealing in vain for a truce. The French government, the European power closest to Haftar, insists it had no prior warning of his assault, which is closing in on the capital, Tripoli. The outcome could shape not just the politics of Libya, but also the security of the Mediterranean, and the relevance of democracy across the Middle East and north Africa.

Related: ‘We’re frightened’: Tripoli braces as fighting reaches suburbs

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