The forces of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) will not stop military operations until troops of their rival Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, are withdrawn to their pre-war positions, GNA head Fayez Sarraj said.
Sputnik: The hostilities on the outskirts of Tripoli have been going on for four months. Have any of the powerful countries approached you with an initiative to mediate to resolve the crisis? Are there any preconditions for ending this war?
Fayez al-Sarraj: Yes, the war has been going on for four months already, since 4 April, from an attempted coup, an attempt to seize power.
The aggressor [the forces of LNA General Commander Khalifa Haftar], having acquired a huge amount of weapons over the years, imagined that the war would be an easy stroll, that the militants would enter Tripoli within 24 hours.
There is no effort to mediate or promote the idea of ending the war. There are only statements and addresses from a range of foreign leaders, calling for an end to military operations and a resumption of the process of political settlement.
We did not attack anyone and the call for a cessation of hostilities should be addressed to the aggressor.
We exercise our legitimate, sovereign right to protect our homeland and our city, as well as the hopes of the Libyans to build a civil and democratic state, the right to repel unjustified aggression in which the violations that are being committed are classified under international law as war crimes. The law doesn’t specify that we should stop military operations, but that the aggressor should be withdrawn to the positions where he started the offensive.
The signs of the end of the war are being outlined as our forces advance. The war will end when the aggressor is defeated so that Libyans return to the way of reconciliation, which he has been trying to prevent. In this context, Libyan citizens from all regions of the country have taken the initiative to overcome the current crisis and achieve a stable political situation, which consists of seven points.
First, it is the convening of a national forum in coordination with the UN mission. The condition for participation in it is a belief in a peaceful democratic settlement, a civil state, and the unacceptability of a militaristic state. This forum should promote the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of this year.
Sputnik: How do you assess the course of the hostilities in the vicinity of the Libyan capital, especially after returning Gharyan city under the GNA’s control?
Fayez al-Sarraj: The position is excellent in all directions. Our forces are perseveringly advancing according to the plans developed by the command.
The reclaiming of Gharyan had a positive moral effect on our forces, and at the same time, led to confusion in the ranks of the aggressor, especially because Gharyan was the centre of the General Headquarters and supply of these forces.
This defeat led to the fact that the aggressor forces increased indiscriminate aerial bombing of Tripoli, which led to civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian objects, thus also causing an increase in the number of people forced to abandon their homes.
Sputnik: Representatives of the Khalifa Haftar’s forces have accused you of having turned to Turkey for militarily and logistic help in the battle for Tripoli. Is that true?
Fayez al-Sarraj: First of all, according to the statement of the representative of the UN mission and other numerous reports, the aggressor forces have received different types of weapons from different states – now well-known to everyone – over the past three years. The aggressor has been motivated to attack Tripoli exactly due to having this huge arsenal.
This is a violation of the United Nations embargo. We have repeatedly warned about it at all international platforms where we took part, demanding an end to this violation, or allow us to arm ourselves.
Now we are protecting ourselves, cooperating with friendly states, acting as we deem necessary to protect our people and the legitimate Government of National Accord.
Sputnik: How are the Tripoli residents living now? Has the war caused a humanitarian crisis in the city?
Fayez al-Sarraj: The capital lives its usual life; the Ministry of Internal Affairs is successfully implementing a plan for the protection of citizens, as well as public and private property. However, there is an exodus of residents from the areas of clashes on the outskirts of Tripoli. Government agencies are working to meet the needs of internally displaced persons.
Sputnik: Early last month, the media reported on the detention of two Russian citizens in Tripoli on charges of trying to influence future elections. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it had not received notifications about this from Libyan colleagues. Could you elaborate on the reasons for their detention and what awaits them in the near future?
Fayez al-Sarraj: We have been informed about this. Now the investigation is being conducted by competent authorities, we are waiting for its completion.
If it is proved that they are not involved in what they are accused of, then they will be released. But if this is not the case, they will be tried fairly. In any case, what we are calling for is the good and humane treatment of the accused, who are considered innocent until proven guilty of their involvement in the crime.
Sputnik: Are there any visits of Libyan officials to Moscow planned for the near future? Or do you now expect Russian diplomats yourself?
Fayez al-Sarraj: Visits by Libyan officials in the Russian Federation were not interrupted. We share with Russia friendly ties and cooperation. We are committed to the development and implementation of previously-concluded agreements, as well as their updating in accordance with current needs.
We hope that Russia will play a positive role in resolving the crisis in Libya. Russia is a great state, and great states are responsible for the preservation of peace and security on the planet. This responsibility obliges it to oppose any aggression, as well as to be ready to intervene in order to attain an equitable world of peace and security.