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Trump speaks with Egypt’s president about Libya, bilateral issues

President Trump spoke with Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday about bilateral issues and the ongoing conflict in Libya, according to the White House.

“The leaders discussed important regional and bilateral issues,” the White House said in a statement. “Regarding Libya, the leaders rejected foreign exploitation and agreed that parties must take urgent steps to resolve the conflict before Libyans lose control to foreign actors.”

U.S. officials have grown concerned about the intensifying conflict in Libya amid reports of Russian mercenaries backing Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army.

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The State Department said in a statement Saturday that the U.S. is concerned “by the LNA’s threat to use foreign-supplied air assets and mercenaries to attack Misrata.” 

“External military intervention threatens prospects for resolving the conflict,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement over the weekend. 

“We deplore attacks on innocent civilians and call on all sides to refrain from escalation. The United States is prepared to work with the UN and all the parties to initiate political negotiations,” Ortagus said.

Libya has been in conflict since 2014, divided into rivaling political and military coalitions. Haftar’s forces, which are backed by Egypt, launched an offensive in April to take Tripoli. A delegation of senior U.S. officials met with Haftar in November to try to achieve a suspension of fighting and political solution.

Trump spoke with al-Sisi while on a two-week stint at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., during the holidays.

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