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Anger in Algeria after Threats by Libya’s Haftar to ‘Spread War’ to it

Anger in Algeria after Threats by Libya’s Haftar to ‘Spread War’ to it

Monday, 10 September, 2018 - 07:30
Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar. (Reuters)
Algiers - Boualem Goumrassa
The Algerian foreign ministry has yet to respond to Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar’s threats to “spread” war to the neighboring country.

An Algerian source told Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity that officials from the ministry held a meeting on Sunday morning to address Haftar’s statements.

The government source said that views varied on whether a firm response should be made or whether it should be avoided in order to avert any tensions between the two neighbors given Algeria’s mediation efforts in Libya.

In a video circulated on social media in the past 48 hours, Haftar was seen saying that the “war could be spread, in moments, to the Algerian border.”

He added that Algiers “was exploiting the security situation in Libya”.

He also accused Algeria of sending soldiers to Libya, similar to what happened at the beginning of the Libya crisis in 2011. Algeria was at the time accused for dispatching “militias to support Moammar Gaddafi,” Libya’s former ruler.

Algiers had vehemently denied the charges at the time.

Haftar added however that Algeria had apologized for the behavior of its troops and vowed to resolve the crisis as soon as possible.

He also did not disclose when Algerian soldiers had entered Libyan territory.

Algiers had previously refused to allow its army to take part in foreign military operations, explaining that it is barred by the constitution.

Haftar has long had tense relations with Algeria, which in turn prefers to communicate with head of the Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, who is based in Tripoli.

Haftar had accused Algeria in 2014 of trying to seize Libya’s wealth. It was also accused by the Libyan opposition of sending “mercenaries and weapons to save the Gaddafi regime from collapse.

The Algerian government had at the time accused the opposition of “misinterpreting the situation in Libya,” adding that it did not support the Gaddafi regime and was keen on stopping the bloodshed in the country.

International relations professor at the University of Ouargla Bouhania Qawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haftar’s “threatening rhetoric” went beyond his military capacity given the pressing regional balances.

“He has violated all diplomatic norms with such a statement,” he added.

“His threat was directed at a state that stands at an equal distance from all warring parties,” he added, saying that Algeria had welcomed both Haftar and Sarraj in its attempts to reach reconciliation between them.

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