Fayez Sarraj’s visit to Washington and his meetings there with Trump, Tillerson and Mattis were designed to send a message to Khalifa Hifter, general commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), that Sarraj remains a ‘red line’ until the elections, said Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya’s former ambassador to the UN, commenting on a statement by the US secretary of state.
Remarks attributed to marshal Hifter suggesting that the army would assume power in Libya if the GNA failed to solve the country’s crisis by the end of its two-year term on 17 December, sparked a series of statements over the last few months from GNA’s international backers including the US, the UK and France stressing that the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) does not expire on 17 December and that the GNA will continue as Libya’s sole legitimate government until next year’s election which is supposed to conclude Libya’s political transition according to a recent ‘action plan’ introduced by the United Nations.
“It’s about time that the army gets to have a say. If things are not sorted by December, all those you see now will go beyond history. I urge our brothers [in the GNA] to do their best to end the people’s suffering. The head of the Presidency Council has toured around the world yet failed to undermine or divide the army. Therefore, I advise that he focusses on ending the suffering of the Libyans during what remains of his term in the Presidency Council, which is six months,” Hifter told a meeting of LNA officers in June.
An LNA source who wished to remain anonymous told this website that marshal Hifter’s warning was meant to pressurize Sarraj to “stop wasting his short term plotting against the military institution and to focus instead on solving the country’s financial and electricity crises”. Things have changed since June, said the source, “operationally, the LNA is no longer capable of mobilizing any effective forces in the western region after its units in Zintan and Wershifana defected to Osama Ajwaily”.
Dabbashi appears to be referring to a line in a statement released yesterday by Heather Nauert, spokeswoman of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which warned that “Attempts to bypass the UN-facilitated political process or impose a military solution to the conflict would only destabilize Libya and create opportunities for ISIS and other terrorist groups to threaten the United States and our allies”. The statement was issued following Sarraj’s meeting with secretary Tillerson to reaffirm US governments’ support for the GNA: “Secretary Tillerson underscored that the United States continues to urge all Libyan parties to engage constructively with Special Representative Salamé’s mediation, including his ongoing efforts to help them negotiate amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement. The Libyan Political Agreement remains the only viable framework for a political solution throughout Libya’s transitional period.”
Sarraj, who arrived Thursday in Washington and had talks with Defence Secretary, James Mattis, followed by two meetings yesterday with Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, and President Donald, yesterday took a clear swipe at Hifter, in a statement released by his media office: “Mr president [Sarraj] underscored his firm belief in democracy, in the civilian state and the importance of unifying the military institution under an executive civilian leadership. Mr president thanked the American administration for its stance that the LPA remains the sole framework until next year’s election, that there is no place for a military solution, and that it is important to take a decisive action against the obstructors”. And in what seemed as a warning directed at the Central Bank's Governor, Seddik Kabeer, the statment added: "The president talked about the deep division within Libya’s state institutions that was caused by the political crisis and the continued attempts by some to obstruct the political track”. Sarraj was accompanied by GNA ministers for Foreign Affairs and Planning, Mohammed Syala and Taher Jahaimy.