By Sami Zaptia.
London, 22 October 2018:
The Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council (PC) refuted reports that a “final agreement” had been reached at the Libyan army reunification talks being held in Cairo.
The PC were reacting to a statement by the Khalifa Hafter-led Libyan National Army official spokesperson Ahmed Mesmari last week in which he, amongst other things, implied that Hafter and his General Command would be in charge of the newly reunited Libyan army.
Mesmari had said that the Cairo meeting confirmed what had been agreed in previous meetings, namely that the LNA General Command, led by Haftar, is, what he called “the main facade of the Libyan National Army”. Mesmari had not elaboratet as to what this entails in practice.
In its swift reaction, the PC said that it supports the Cairo Libyan army reunification talks as they constitute an important process to ending the current division of the Libyan military institution.
However, the PC warned against these what it called “irresponsible statements” that might negatively affect the talks that have been taking place in Cairo for more than a year.
Such irresponsible statements might only lengthen the current crisis of division, it added.
The PC reiterated that it is committed to the fundamentals of the Libyan Political Agreement (signed in 2015 in the Moroccan city of Skhirat), which include the division of power, the political accountability of the Libyan military to a civilian executive and democratic principles, which are the foundation of building a state of institutions and rule of law.
There has been much conjecture as to why Hafter’s official spokesperson, Ahmed Mesmari, would make such a public statement whilst delicate talks were still ongoing.
This is especially so if as reported, the talks were constructive and to the satisfaction of Hafter.
If Mesmari was speaking out of turn, most observers believe he would most likely be dismissed.
This leaves us with the conclusion that he was authorized by Hafter to test the water by making such a controversial statement.
Hafter being appointed commander of any newly reunified national military institution is a challenge to many in western Libya.
However, a compromise may be arrived at where Hafter gets some kind of command role, while remaining within the fundamentals of a politically accountable, civilian-led, democratic structure.