By Saber Ayyub.
Tripoli, 31 January 2016:
A member of the Presidency Council has walked out in protest at premier-designate Faiez Serraj’s Marj . . .[restrict]meeting on Saturday with armed forces commander-in-chief Khalifa Hafter.
Mohammed Ammari, the Minister for Specialised Council Affairs, said that he was suspending his membership of the Presidency in protest at the encounter.
He is the third member to have adopted the tactic. Deputy PM-designate Ali Gatrani, himself close to Hafter, did so a fortnight ago over supplementary Article 8 of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), seen in Hafter circles as aimed at stripping the general of his post. His walkout was then followed by Omar Aswad over the size of the government proposed by the Council Both later rejoined it after the HoR requested they do so.
Ammari insisted that the Marrj visit was in breach of the LPA and called for UNSMIL to reconvene members of the Libyan Dialogue to review the performance of the Presidency Council. He is himself a member of Dialogue.
Serraj’s Marj trip also brought strong condemnation from Ahmed Maetig, one of the five deputy prime ministers-designate. He said he had been surprised by the visit, adding that he had only learnt about it through the media.
Maetig said that he had been in contact with Serraj until late on Friday night but Serraj had not mentioned the trip. He took the view therefore that the Hafter meeting had been personal and that the premier-designate had not been representing the rest of the Council.
Clearly assuming that Hafter talked to Serraj about Article 8 of the LPA, which has a direct bearing on who will head the armed forces after the Government of National Accord is in place, Maetig also said that the article was not negotiable.
A reliable source close to the Council told this newspaper that Serraj had said he was flying from Tunis back to Egypt where he had been earlier in the week. No-one was told that he was going to Marj, the source said.
The reaction of Abdurrahman Sewehli was more bitter than his nephew Maetig. He characterised Serraj’s Marj meeting as a dangerous violation which obliged him to call for prime minister-designate’s immediate resignation. Hafter, he said, was one of the main reasons for Libya’s political divide
Serraj himself sought to explain on his social media page that his talk with Hafter was simply one of a series of meetings to assess “the opinions, fears and worries of influential sides in the crisis”. [/restrict]