Published On: Thu, Jul 29th, 2021

Eye on Libya: Haftar Remains A Specter In Libya’s End-Game

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By Janet Ekstract

NEW YORK (TURKISH JOURNAL) – The controversy over fully opening the Misrata-Sirte coastal road will most certainly end up being one deciding factor in Libya’s future since the infamous Khalifa Haftar is the primary instigator in the road’s closure. An ultimatum from the Libyan Army to the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) set July 31 as the deadline to open the road.

The commission which consists of a delegation of five military from Haftar forces and another five from the Libyan Army were informed about the deadline, Abdelhadi Drah, the spokesman for the Sirte-Jufra Operations Room told the press. Drah said if the road isn’t opened by Haftar, the Libyan Army will shut down the side already opened from last month. He added that the JMC is responsible for everything that is happening while urging its members to identify ‘troublemakers’ who refuse to open the coastal road. Drah also criticized the JMC for not withdrawing mercenaries yet. In mid-June Libya’s Prime Minister Abdul-Hamid Dbeibah announced the reopening of the coastal road with the Libyan Army in agreement – opening the road from the Misrata side. It was Haftar’s delegation who rejected that decision and kept its side closed.

Meanwhile, Haftar is attempting to garner support for his election run on December 24. Haftar loyalists in eastern Libya launched a campaign to collect names, national identification numbers from electoral centers. His loyalists are also collecting the numbers of people who will vote for Haftar in presidential elections, just five months away. The strongman’s aim is to influence public opinion in his favor to garner votes. Some of those who attended the meetings claim that Haftar’s ploy is to create media propaganda showing him as the only true leader for Libya. The ploy includes using underage citizens as legitimate voters. Analysts consider this move an early indication of election fraud. A paper that was circulated in eastern Libya then posted on social media, displayed potential voters’ personal information. Social media activists said it’s not the first time an attempt was made to falsify elections in Libya’s east. To prove it, activists circulated a recording for a displaced person from that region who was surprised that his daughter who is underage, was listed as a registered voter in Benghazi.

In the meantime, on Monday, EU’s first regional media officer for the Middle East and North Africa, Luis Miguel Bueno said that Libya is a top priority for the EU. In a press interview, Bueno commented that a military solution will never solve Libya’s longstanding conflict. He added that the sole solution is with a political process. Bueno emphasized that the EU is taking a very proactive approach to assisting Libya. The media officer stressed that organizing the December 24 general elections and total implementation of the ceasefire must be the top concerns to resolve as soon as possible. Bueno echoed the same sentiment other nations have – that all foreign fighters in Libya must leave. He reiterated that there is a great opportunity for the international community to get involved in helping Libya in its progress toward democracy.

To that end, on July 25, U.S. Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland met with Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as well as other Libyan and international representatives in a meeting with members of the Presidential Council (PC) – Abdullah Al-Lafi and Musa Al-Koni. The focus was on security conditions in southern Libya and national reconciliation. Norland’s view is that creating stability in the south while uniting the Libyan people are crucial ways to end the conflict and improve Libyan lives.

In addition, Dbeibah also met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Africa Nations, Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury – Eric Meyer. Dbeibah is scheduled to meet other U.S. and Libyan officials in side meetings which is to conclude the signing of a contract between Hatif Libya and the American company, Infinera. The contract with the Infinera plans to focus on upgrading communications infrastructure in Libya and while providing cyber-security services.

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