Libya’s foreign minister, Mohammed Sayala, has named Khalifa Haftar, the controversial chief of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), as the head of the country’s army – provided that he recognises the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) as the only authority.
Haftar, whose LNA forces control key oil ports, is a dominant figure for factions in eastern Libya that have rejected the GNA, contributing to its failure to expand its power in the capital, Tripoli, and beyond.
In a press conference in Algeria’s capital, Algiers, on Monday, Mohammed Siyala, of the GNA, announced that Haftar was “the commander-in-chief of the Libyan army”. He later added that Haftar first must recognise the Tripoli-based GNA as Libya’s sole authority.
The Algiers conference was also attended by Abdelkader Messahel, Algeria’s minister of Maghreb affairs, African Union and Arab League, and UN envoy to Libya Martin Kobler.
The announcement came after Haftar met last week in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, with the head of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, in an effort to end the country’s ongoing crisis.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said the statement about Haftar’s new role had been met with a “wave of criticism.
“Many people are angry and are wondering how a general whose forces have committed atrocities in Benghazi, whose aircrafts have been raiding ports and airports all over Libya, can be called by the UN-backed GNA as the commander and chief of the Libyan army,” he said.
“There is a contradiction here because Haftar himself does not recognise the UN-backed government.”