Khalifa Hafter
General Khalifa Haftar and his armed forces have said they are not concerned by the threat EU of sanctions Reuters

The Libyan armed forces have brushed aside the threat of an European Union asset freeze and travel ban on General Khalifa Haftar, the chief of the North African nation's military.

The EU has said it will issue sanctions against the former Gaddafi aide if he does not step aside to allow United Nations-sponsored peace talks to resume in Libya.

However, Haftar and his armed forces have said they are not concerned by the threat of sanctions and will continue with their military action in the east of Libya.

"The sanctions are meaningless," Hafter's spokesman Mohammed al-Hejazi told IBTimes UK. "At the moment we have only heard reports in the media and have had no formal message ...

"If the West calls us criminals it makes no difference to us because we are fighting terrorism and will continue," he added.

Reuters reported that the EU was considering sanctions against five senior Libyan figures on both sides of Libya's civil war.

Three leaders of Libya Dawn, a coalition of Islamist militias supporting Libya's Tripoli government, were named as possible targets for the sanctions: Abdulrahman Suweihli, Salah Badi and Abdulraouf Mannay.

Libyan National Army troops engage against Islamist forces Reuters

Hafter, who leads forces aligned with Libya's internationally recognised government in Tobruk, and the head of the Libyan Air Force Saqr al-Jerushi were also threatened with asset freezes and travel bans.

"The West is equating us to Libya Dawn. This is not correct. We are an army and the Libyan people support us," al-Hejazi said of the sanctions.

The EU has reintroduced the possibility of sanctions against military leaders in Libya in a bid to restart the country's stalled peace process. All five of the men listed in the sanctions have said they will not accept a truce between Tripoli and Baida.

The EU has said negotiations in Libya are the only solution to the conflict. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told journalists following a meeting of European foreign ministers to discuss Libya: "We are prepared to adopt sanctions, we are considering names."

Most of the factions in Libya's civil war have agreed to terms for the formation of a unity government and an end to the conflict but negotiations were disrupted by the abstention of the country's Tripoli administration which walked out of talks in early July.

Tripoli has said that the inclusion of Haftar, in any political compromise is unacceptable.

Zintan Clashes
A fighter from Zintan brigade watches the aftermath of a militia strike an oil depot during the Libya Dawn takeover of Tripoli Hani Amara/Reuters

Libya has been locked in a bitter power struggle between Tripoli and Baida since August last year when Libya Dawn militias seized control of the nation's capital.

The chaos has been fertile ground for the offshoot of Islamic State in Libya which up until recently held strongholds in two major Libyan towns.

The presence of IS in Libya has become increasingly concerning to the international community. Following ostentatious displays of violence in Libya itself, it subsequently emerged that perpetrators of the Bardo Museum attack in Tunis and Seifeddine Rezgui, who killed 38 people in Port Sousse, had received training at IS and Ansar Al-Sharia camps in Libya.

The reported presence of international terror figures such as Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Mohammed Emwazi, better known as Jihadi John, in Libya have increasingly marked the country as a safe haven, out of the reach of intelligence gatherers and the security services.