UN pins hopes on Haftar to prop up new Libyan government

New Libyan prime minister chosen by United Nations cannot even go into Tripoli since both parliaments have opposed the UN deal

Martin Kobler met Khalifa Haftar on Wednesday
Martin Kobler met Khalifa Haftar on Wednesday

Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, who earlier in 2015 was appointed to lead a national army backing the House of Representatives based in Tobruk, is increasingly being seen as the lynchpin in the UN’s plan to stabilise Libya.

On Thursday, a fragile peace deal was signed in Morocco by some MPs from the rival parliaments – the HOR in Tobruk, and the General National Congress in Tripoli – in a bid to bring to an end an 18-month civil war.

But on Tuesday, the presidents of both parliaments came to Malta to declare that they will forge ahead with their own unity government after refusing the UN deal presented by special representatives Bernardino Leon and now Martin Kobler.

Thursday’s deal was accepted in person by 30 members of the Tripoli faction, who took the capital in 2014 and forced the retreat of the internationally recognised government to Tobruk. Jamal Zubia, spokesman for the rebel government, claimed that those who signed the unity agreement did not speak for their former allies in Tripoli.

Yesterday, Kobler told the Libyan press that it was crucial for the army to have an important role in bringing the new government now headed by Faiez Seraj, into Tripoli.

المبعوث الأممي إلى ليبيا "مارتن كوبلر" لـ"الكل" :"كان لي لقاء مطول وصريح مع "حفتر" أمس، لم نناقش الأسماء في الجيش ولكن يجب أن يكون للجيش دور مهم في حفظ الأمن".

Posted by ‎الكل‎ on Thursday, 17 December 2015

 

“I met General Haftar. We had a long meeting. It was a good meeting, and very frank.

“The army must have an important role… security is of the utmost importance. Nothing moves without security. The government cannot go to Tripoli. The economy cannot survive well. You will have the assistance of the international security once security is better,” Kobbler said, in anticipation of the lifting of the UN’s arms embargo to Libya.

The West is increasingly anxious to see a Libyan army that can stop the Islamic State from gaining further ground in Libya and access to its oilfields.

A UK government source told the Guardian that the the new Libyan administration expected to request British military support. A small UK force of about half a dozen – along with a similar number from Italy – would be sent initially to scope out the feasibility of the anti-Isis operation, such as location for training and the potential threat level.

Kobler has also said he and Haftar had agreed on the overriding need to tackle terrorism. “Every day it is spreading and killing Libya’s sons and daughters. And every day we wait, that you wait is a gain for Daesh [IS] in this country. And I am very glad to see that the general agrees on the urgency of the matter.”

Adding further to this soup of Western interest was the news that a group of U.S. commandos who landed in Libya on Monday were ordered to leave almost immediately because of a possible mix-up between the Libyan air force and army. Senior U.S. defense officials who spoke to NBC on condition of anonymity, confirmed the incident to NBC News after the Libyan Air Force posted pictures to its Facebook page appearing to show the group of U.S. Special Operations Forces at one of its air bases. “American commandos have been ‘in and out of Libya’ for ‘some time now’, according to the U.S. officials, but purely to advise Libyan forces rather than conduct combat operations or training,” NBC reported.

The new Seraj government will have many more security challenges than just Islamic State because it has yet to take struggle even to take office in Tripoli.

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