Libya’s Palermo Summit Unveils Dispute Between Haftar, Sarraj

Libya’s Palermo Summit Unveils Dispute Between Haftar, Sarraj

Thursday, 15 November, 2018 - 13:00
Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame attends the second day of the international conference on Libya in Palermo, Italy, November 13, 2018. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud
Italy seemed optimistic Libya will be holding new elections in the upcoming spring, however, controversy emerged between Prime Minister of Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj and Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar on the definition and authorities of the army commander.

Haftar and Sarraj engaged in a media debate regarding a dispute that happened between them during the security meeting, which discussed the Libyan crisis on the sidelines of the Palermo conference.

Italy hosted a two-day conference in Palermo which was called by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and attended by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, UN SRSG Salame, European Council President Donald Tusk and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

A statement issued by the office of Haftar indicated that he attended the meeting to discuss all security issues related to the war on illegal immigration and terrorism and securing Libya’s borders with neighboring countries.

During the meeting, Haftar discussed restructuring the army and not its unification, but he implicitly refused to recognize Sarraj as the top commander of the national army.

Haftar also considered the status of the army commander an exclusive matter only given to the prospective head of state and its duties must be transferred to the general commander of the army until the presidential elections are held. He noted that it is not acceptable to include armed militias in the national army which now holds about 80 thousand fighters.

During the meeting, Sarraj reiterated the importance of completing security arrangements, economic reforms and providing services to citizens throughout the country, according to a statement issued by his office. The statement mentioned Haftar without referring to his military rank or position.

Meanwhile, Italy was optimistic Libya could hold elections next spring, Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Enzo Moavero said on Wednesday.

The United States welcomed the conclusions announced by Italy following the conference in Palermo, which brought Libyan and international leaders together to advance shared goal of helping Libya’s institutions break their political deadlock and ensure a secure and prosperous future for all Libyans.

“We strongly support UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ghassan Salame and the recalibrated UN Action Plan he presented to the Security Council on November 8, which calls for a Libyan-led National Conference to be held in the first weeks of 2019 and the subsequent electoral process to begin in the spring of 2019,” said the State Department.

“We urge all Libyans to work constructively with SRSG Salame toward the goals of an inclusive constitutional process and credible, peaceful, and well-prepared elections.”

Speaking at Palermo, Salame stated that after 15 months in Libya, he came to the conclusion that there is no military but only political solutions, and Libyans have to find them, indicating that delaying the political solution only impacts negatively current and future Libyans generations.

He asserted that the crisis of legitimacy won't be resolved by finger-pointing, but earned from the people by adhering to their will.

Salame called for the next meeting to be held on Libyan soil to decide on next steps.

“I heard a much louder sound of unity in international community in political, security and economic fields in Libya, and heard and saw much higher level of conviviality among Libyan stakeholders,” the SRSG stated.

He asserted that the conference sends a unified message that it is high time Libyans take own destiny into their hands.

“It will be remembered as a milestone in these common efforts.”

Earlier, Libyan Red Crescent announced it recovered 22 unidentified bodies in the eastern city of Darna.

The bodies were recovered in southern Darna after local authorities notified Red Crescent teams, the Red Crescent said.

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