Khalifa Hafter, the House of Representatives’ (HoR) Libyan National Army (LNA) General Commander has refused a meeting request by UNSMIL head Martin Kobler.
The claim was made by LNA Official Spokesman Colonel Ahmed Mesmari on his official twitter and Facebook account yesterday. The tweet simply said ”LNA General command rejects a meeting request by @KoblerSRSG’’. By adding Martin Kobler’s twitter handle, the message was meant to reach Kobler.
The tweet and Facebook post did not mention when exactly the request was made.
Responding today to a Libya Herald, request for a comment, UNSMIL’s Public Information Officer, Jean Alam said that ‘’the United Nations is and will continue to engage everyone in the search for peace in Libya’’.
‘‘We will knock on every door and we will meet with anyone we believe can help end the conflict and bring stability to Libya’’. The ”only people and organizations we will not talk to, are the groups designated as terrorist by the United Nations’’.
Responding to comments that such a meeting would have been seen as a waste of time, the UNSMIL Spokesperson said that ‘’the only time wasted is when we don’t discuss peace. (UNSMIL’s) hand is always stretched to reach out to all sincere Libyans who want an end to the suffering of their people’’.
”(UNSMIL) will stop at nothing to seek and achieve what all Libyans want – peace and unity for the country’’, the statement concluded.
It will be recalled that Hafter had last met with Kobler (together with Paolo Serra) in Hafter’s eastern HQ in Marj on 16th December last year.
Kobler had described that meeting as a ‘’fruitful’’ one. The meeting had come on the eve of the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) the next day in Skhirat, Morocco between the warring Libyan factions.
At that meeting, it was believed that Kobler had convinced Hafter to support the LPA in return for support of a Libyan National Army, fighting terrorism and supplying arms to the LNA after the approval of and a request by the GNA.
However, it seems that relations between the two have cooled as the Presidential Council and a large number of members in the HoR seem to be determined to avoid appointing Hafter as the General Commander of the unified GNA-led LNA.
This is reflected in the refusal of HoR president Ageela Salah to convene the HoR for a meeting to approve the GNA prior to dropping article 8 of the LPA. Article 8 stipulates that upon the approval of the GNA by the HoR all main sovereign positions, including Hafter’s position, all revert to the PC/GNA.
The minority supporters of Hafter, but crucially including Ageela Salah, within the HoR are determined to install Hafter as head of the LNA to counter balance what they see as the dominance of Misrata or what they refer to as the ‘’Islamists’’ or the Tripoli militias in Tripoli.
The emergence of Abdulrahman Swehli as head of a proactive High State Council has not helped. The HoR say that the State Council is not supposed to usurp the legislative role of the HoR in the LPA.
UNSMIL head Kobler, for his part, reflecting the international community, is keen to install the GNA as soon as possible. To this end UNSMIL and the international community seem to be pushing on with the GNA on the ground in Tripoli and not waiting for the reluctant HoR.
Moreover, the PC has appointed its own ”unified leadership” for a united Libyan army that would include western and eastern forces to fight IS in Sirte – excluding Hafter. Hafter fears that in the war to liberate Sirte from IS, he could be side-lined or even made politically redundant.