Haftar to be Libya’s army chief if he supports UN-backed GNA

The renegade Libyan general Khalifa Haftar has reportedly been offered the role of Libya’s army chief if he supports the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli.

Mohamed al-Taher Siala said Haftar, who has waged war on Tripoli, would get the role if he recognized the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli as the sole authority in Libya.

Siala said, “Haftar must first accept to work under a civilian authority and officially approve the political deal” that gave rise to the power-sharing authority.

Haftar, who is the leader of a militia known as the Libyan National Army, does not recognize Tripoli and instead backs the parliament based in Tobruk, in the western Libya.

Moreover, the parliament, Libya’s sole elected house of representatives, has also refused to endorse the GNA.

Siala commented a day after making controversial comments about Haftar in Algiers following a regional meeting towards ending the conflict in Libya.

On Monday, just days after a rare face-to-face meeting between Haftar and GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj in Abu Dhabi, Siala said,”Haftar was named by a parliament elected by the Libyan people. He is the head of the Libyan army. There is no doubt about that.”

The next day, Siala said he did not understand why his comments were seen as controversial since he had made the same remarks previously.

After Siala’s comments, tensions soared in the Libyan capital, with tanks and armored vehicles deployed to protect the GNA’s headquarters, a witnesses said.

This week, Haftar and al-Serraj met in Abu Dhabi for only the second time since Serraj was named prime minister in late 2015 as diplomatic efforts intensify to ends years of chaos and conflict in the North African nation.

In a statement, a powerful GNA-allied militia in Tripoli denounced the minister’s remarks.

It said the idea of the parliament giving Haftar legitimacy “went against the Libya political agreement” inked in December 2015 that gave rise to the unity government.

Haftar is a military figure, backed by Tobruk government based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognize the U.N.-backed government, enjoys the support of several Arab nations, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, as well as western countries as France.

That UN-brokered deal gave no role to Haftar or his forces, but Libya’s strongman has since imposed himself as a key player, especially after seizing the country’s key oil terminals in September.

In the same context, Al-Sisi’s military and political officials have been working throughout the previous months with different Libyan factions to resolve the Libya’s political deadlock on one hand and to strengthen Haftar’s role in Libya, especially by focusing on amending the Political Agreement (PA) article that outlined the authorities of the Libyan army chief commander and that also excluded Haftar from leading the army.

Excessive meetings have been held, under Egypt’s auspices, with several Libyan officials and members in Tobruk’s House of Representatives to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement in a way that enclose Libya’s strongman in the political process.

On December 13, 2016, Cairo hosted a conference attended by Libyan officials and representatives from the country’s numerous factions, where they issued a declaration of principles and five proposed amendments to an agreement, brokered by the UN in 2015.

The Libyan Political Agreement, signed in Skhirat, Morocco December 2015 known as the Skhirat Agreement, intensified the internal strife rather than resolving it.

The conference concluded an agreement on amending the 8th article of the 2015 agreement that outline the authorities of the Libyan army chief commander.

The article constituted a major obstacle during signing Skhirat agreement as it included the exclusion of General Khalifa Haftar from leading the army.

The conference meetings were brokered under the auspices of the Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate and in a hotel related to the security entity.

The conference concluded what the participants consider as “a road map to achieve unity in Libya during the coming period,”and one of the major recommendations presented by the participants, “to reconsider the responsibilities of the army chief commander that is currently held by Aqila Saleh, the head of Tobruk’s House of Representatives (HoR), who has promoted General Khalifa Haftar to Field Marshal last September.

Libyan media outlets reported that the Presidency Council (PC) head al-Serraj will meet with Khalifa Haftar in Cairo on Thursday for the second stage of their discussions, according to Libya Herald.

Sources said that he had already left for the Egyptian capital and that Haftar had likewise flown this evening from Benghazi’s Benina airbase.

Neither report has been confirmed.

Since the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has fallen into chaos with rival militias and authorities were competing to control the oil-rich country.