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article imageOp-Ed: Head of Libyan government to meet with eastern commander in Paris

By Ken Hanly     Jul 22, 2017 in World
The Saudi-owned newspaper al-Hayat has claimed that Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the armed forces of the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) government will meet with Faiez Serraj, head of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord.
According to the Al-Hayat report the two leaders will meet with the French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on July 25th Tuesday. Although the two had talks in May in Dubai described at the time as a breakthrough there were many different reports about what had been agreed to but there was never any joint communique and no real agreement. It was the first meeting between the two in more than a year and a half.
Al-Hayat cited unidentified sources as saying that the meeting sought to build on the diplomatic efforts of the UAE, the UN, and Egypt. Both Egypt and the UAE are strong supporters of Haftar and will no doubt be pressing Serraj for a solution that meets the demands of Haftar, which will include removing a section of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) that makes the Presidential Council carry out the role of commander in chief of the Libyan armed forces in a unity government. Haftar wants to remain as commander. It remains to be seen if the two can arrive at any agreement. If Serraj accommodates Haftar the Government of National Accord(GNA, its High State Council (HSC) and the executive Presidential Council (PC) could experience explosive disagreements between those supporting Haftar as a key player in the government and those opposed to his having such a role. Macron said back on July 13 there would be concrete diplomatic initiatives presented for resolving the conflict.
Although Haftar has consistently been critical of the LPA and blocked attempts to implement it, he has the support of Egypt, the UAE, Russia, and it would seem now France and other western states. All now agree that Haftar must be accepted as being an important part of the solution to the conflict rather than someone who at one time was threatened with sanctions for his blocking of the western-backed LPA and GNA.
Diplomats said a rough plan would involve amending the LPA so that the presidential council would involve just three persons which would include Haftar, Serraj, and a third person from the east. This would be a complete sell-out by Serraj, and would give Haftar a degree of power that many in the GNA could never accept. Haftar would also be head of the Egyptian National Army. Either there will be no agreement under those terms or the GNA will implode IMHO. The UN Security Council supposedly would accept this arrangement and pave the way for national elections. There is no mention of the House of Representatives (HoR) nor the PC of the GNA approving of this arrangement. The present LPA requires the HoR vote confidence in such a government. The whole narrative is perhaps a Saudi wish list.
Much of this information may be part of Saudi propaganda or a trial balloon. No officials in Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) nor in the GNA confirmed the al-Hyat report. The French foreign ministry and also Macron's office said they had no information on the subject. In Libya neither the Libya Observer nor the rival Libya Herald had yet reported on the meeting. It is passing strange that the French Foreign Ministry has no information on a meeting to take place in a few days.
The twitter sphere has conflicting tweets. One tweet has the meeting taking place on Monday the 23rd: "Diplomatic Source: Haftar and Serraj meeting to take place on Monday (July 24th) #Libya …" Another tweet claims that the new UN envoy to Libya will attend the meeting: "AKI: New UN envoy to #Libya, Ghassan Salame, to attend meeting between Haftar and Serraj in #Paris ". Others have reported on the meeting including the Libyan Express, and albawabag, but without further confirmation. We will soon see if it is fake news or a dramatic development in the situation in Libya.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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