Government of National Accord (GNA) foreign minister Mohamed Siala’s reference to Khalifa Hafter as commander of the Libyan army continues to draw flack from the general’s opponents. Misratan members of the HoR (House of Representatives) told that Siala’s behaviour could pave the way to a new civil war and impeach LPA (Libyan Political Agreement) to be implemented. They also recalled that general Haftar doesn’t still recognize officially LPA. Though UNSMIL chief Martin Kobler has been saying that Hafter has an important role to play in a future unified armed forces, many Misratans object to Hafter because of his past as a Qaddafi general
The meeting between the two main Libyan leaders, which could be the first step toward political normalization in the country, has been criticized by other Libyan forces. A group of hardline Misratan militias have lambasted the Khalifa Hafter-Faiez Serraj Abu Dhabi meeting, vowing to “crush” the UN-backed government as a result. They underlined that to organize democratic elections, Hafter and Serraij need to erase criminals from political spectrum. In March, the mainly-Misratan forces supporting the would-be alternative “Government of National Salvation” (GNS) of Khalifa Ghwell were beaten by the local Tripolitan militias and forced out of the capital. These latter, now known as “the Quartet” (being Bishr, Ghneiwa, Tajouri and Abdul Raouf Kara), now effectively control the city along with their allies. This statement follows an other from GNS, by its leader Khalifa Gwell, which described Hafter as a “retired military citizen who does not have any political status” and Serraj as someone “who does not have a legal status”.
A new Libyan-Libyan dialogue could be in preparation between both parts of Libyan political spectrum, indeed, Hafter flew from Benghazi’s Benina Airport, on 1st May, to Abu Dhabi, and according to speculations, he could meet Faiez Serraj, president of the GNA (Government of National Accord) there. According to a statement from the Libyan National Army General Command media office, the visit is at the invitation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy commander of the UAE armed forces. However, there have been constant rumours over the past three or four days of an encounter between him and Serraj having been organised by the Emiratis.
The Libyan National Army is said to have massed 5,000 troops with tanks and artillery in the Brega area in preparation for a second counterattack on the RasLanuf and Sidra export terminals lost to Benghazi Defence Brigades-led forces on Friday and Saturday. There are reports that armed forces commander-in-chief KhalifaHafter made a brief visit to Cairo today. It is not known whom he met. Air force commander SaqrGeroushi who is believed to have suffered a heart attack yesterday is understood to have been flown to Cairo for treatment. The concentration of LNA units came as the air force continued air strikes against BDB positions in and around RasLanuf and Sidra. Meanwhile eight solders are reported to have been killed in a battle at Al-Uqaylah, the small town to which the LNA retreated after being pushed out of the two oil ports. Casualties among the BDB and their supporting forces are not known. LNA spokesmen Colonel Ahmed Mismari maintained that casualties had been high and that the BDB had been commandeering ambulances to ferry their dead and wounded away to the west. Despite or perhaps because of the urgent call on men and equipment to the west, LNA commanders appeared to have stepped up their operation to take the last parts of the 12 Apartment complex in Ganfouda, a battle which has now lasted over five weeks. It is claimed that an ammunition store was discovered today in one of the buildings. At the same time there has been shelling of Sabri, the downtown Benghazi militant stronghold which was also strafed by at least one helicopter gunship. UNSMIL chief Martin Kobler has today warned that the escalating battle in the Oil Crescent could ignite a wider conflict.
Italian ambassador Giuseppe Perrone has confirmed Italy’s view that the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), KhalifaHafter, has to be part of the solution to the Libyan crisis. He also stressed the LNA’s importance in the fight against terrorism in the country. He was speaking as Hafter was in Cairo for talks with the head of the Presidency Council Faeiz Serraj about his possible role in the political structure of Libya. “Italy believes there should be unified military organisation representing Libyans” the ambassador said in an interview. He added that Italy looked forward “to working with all Libyans who are committed to the fight against terrorism and to achieve stability in Libya”. Italy, along with France, the UK and other Western states and the UN have swung round to the view that Hafter, previously seen as an impediment to peace in Libya, has to be part of the political set-up. Perrone also reaffirmed that Italy had no active military presence in Libya, and dismissed the allegation that the Italians had been responsible for shooting down a Libyan National Army helicopter last week as complete nonsense.