The Address | Benghazi – Libya
TRIPOLI – Head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Al-Sarraj, told French newspaper Le Monde that he is “surprised and perplexed” by France’s support for the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its military operation to liberate Tripoli.
Tripoli’s southern regions have been witnessing, since 4 April, violent clashes between LNA and militias affiliated to GNA, after LNA’s General Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar launched a military operation to liberate the capital from those militias.
“We are surprised and perplexed by France’s position,” Al-Sarraj said in the interview published on Monday, “How can a country that aspires to freedom, human rights and democracy be so unclear to our people, who aspire to the same values?”
France was the first to voice its support for LNA’s fight against terrorism, with the European Union calling for deescalation from both sides while acknowledging, at the same time, that internationally-sanctioned warlords are fighting on Al-Sarraj’s side.
Al-Sarraj said that he is “worried about France’s reputation in the public opinion” because of its “unclear” position and its “lack of solidarity”.
France’s support for LNA prompted GNA’s Interior Minister, Fathi Bashagha, to order a halt for bilateral security agreements.
When asked about this retaliatory measure, Le Monde reported that Al-Sarraj seemed “embarrassed” but he did not disavow his minister.
“It’s his decision as a minister, it’s his prerogative,” he said, adding immediately, “It is nothing more than a crisis in our relations. I think we can overcome it if France takes the right position.”
France was not the only country to express support for LNA. Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others also backed LNA’s military operation. However, the boldest move of support came from the United States after the White House announced that President Donald Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources” during a phone conversation.
“The two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system,” the White House said, making no reference whatsoever to Al-Sarraj and his government.
Le Monde said that Al-Sarraj was “making the effort to minimize what is clearly a diplomatic setback”.
“The US position on the war on terror is clear,” Al-Sarraj told Le Monde as he insisted that LNA’s operation in Tripoli is not to fight terrorism.
While he spent the last few weeks calling for a cease-fire and a return to political dialogue, Al-Sarraj told Le Monde that it is “undoubtedly impossible to renew the political dialogue in the context of these fights.”