Friday, February 5, 2016

Prime Minister designate of Government of National Accord meets Khalifa Haftar

A recent meeting, last Saturday, between General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan National Army and Faiez Serraj, Prime Minister designate of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord(GNA) has created serious divisions with the GNA.

Faiez met with Haftar at his headquarters in Marj. The fallout from the meeting is still building. Today, Mohammed Al-Emmari suspended his membership in the GNA to protest the visit. Haftar not only is commander of the LNA but also heads Operation Dignity that was started in May of 2014 and is designed to rid Libya of all Islamists including those associated with one of two rival governments, the General National Congress(GNC) located in Tripoli in western Libya. Many in the GNC regard him as a war criminal as he served for many years in the Gadaffi government before turning against him and working to overthrow his regime. Haftar spent a long period of exile in the United States.
Ahmed Mietig, one of the Deputy Prime Ministers and part of the Presidency Council also criticized Faiez' visit, claiming that his visit represented only himself and not the Presidential Council. Mietig said: "We have been in touch with Mr. Fayaz Sirraj until late at night but he did not inform us of his intention to conduct this visit.” Obviously, Faiez only consulted with certain members of the Presidency Council and did not get any formal authorization for the visit. One wonders if the UN suggested he make the visit. Reports do not say whether Haftar invited Serraj or the other way around. Note that Serraj had to go to Haftar's headquarters. Haftar did not travel to meet with Serraj. The same was the case in the visit of Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General(SRSG) to Libya when he also visited Haftar.
GNC dialogue member, Abdul-Rahman Al-Swaihli demanded Faiez resign immediately and said: “Haftar does not have any official position in Libya and is considered an outlaw, so Sirraj’s visit to him constitutes a serious setback in the national accord and thus leads to the escalation of the conflict.” Haftar does have an official position in the internationally-recognized government, the House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk. The Prime Minister of the HoR appointed Haftar as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army(LNA). Al-Swaihli's claim is based on the fact that the GNC does not recognize the HoR.
Fathi Agha, an HoR member, but who along with many others has boycotted meetings, claimed that the meeting violated Serraj's authority and provoked anger among some members of the Presidential Council. Even more significant was the criticism of Ashrf Shih, who is the political adviser to those from the GNC who signed on to the LPA at Skhirat on December 17th last year. Shih regarded Serraj's visit as a violation of the LPA and suggested that Serraj's position in the Presidency Council should be changed as a result of his visit:"Fayez Al-Sirraj is a liar and is not up to the level he is required to be, so if he was serious about the visit’s aim, then Haftar should have visited him and requested meeting him, but it is weird how Al-Sirraj went to Haftar’s office and sat down without even chairing the meeting.”Haftar likes to show who is boss.
Finally, Abdurazzak Al-Aradi, a member of the Justice and Construction Party who supports the LPA and GNA also criticized Serraj. The Justice and Construction Party is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. The party supports the LPA and GNA but many members reject it. The visit of Serraj to Haftar will cause even more members to reject the view of their leaders that the GNA will protect them from Haftar. Al-Aradi claimed that the Serraj visit to Haftar might destroy the legitimacy of the Presidential Council and threaten the whole LPA.
Certainly the action will result in more conflict between Haftar supporters in the GNA and those from the GNC who are within the GNA but oppose Haftar. It appears more and more likely that some sort of deal is being worked out with Haftar. In spite of all that Haftar has done to disrupt the peace process the UN has said nothing critical about him and Martin Kobler himself also had a meeting with Haftar. The HoR has to meet again and give a vote of confidence in the GNA and approve the LPA within a few days. We will know then whether the UN and the Presidency Council have given assurances that Haftar will keep his job. If there is a deal then the vote of confidence will probably pass. If there is no deal it wont.


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