By Sami Zaptia.
London, 14 May 2020:
Speaking at a press conference in Tripoli yesterday, Fathi Bashagha, the Interior Minister of Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tripoli, reviewed the positions of the countries supporting what he called ‘‘the criminal Khalifa Haftar’’ in his war on the capital Tripoli.
The Minister spent most of the conference talking about his ministry and the need for the creation and continued building of a strong Interior Ministry. But he also spoke about other topics. He is prone to holding meandering press conferences where he talks about matters that are strictly outside his remit.
There have been reports of power struggles in western Libya between various factions and militias, and some see Bashagha’s press conference as part of that process. It is thought that he harbours ambitions to replace current internationally recognized Prime Minister Faiez Serraj if there was a reshuffle. However, any reshuffle within the Libyan Political Agreement would need the approval of the eastern-based parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR). It is very unlikely that they would approve Bashagha.
In a surprise public revelation on the status of the fighting with Hafter, Bashagha conceded that ‘‘there is a military balance’’ on the borders of the capital Tripoli between his government’s forces and the ‘‘militias and mercenaries of the criminal Haftar’’.
However, he added that but the Russian ‘‘Wagner mercenaries entered strongly and fiercely in support of the criminal Haftar and killed those in safety and terrorized them’’. Wagner are considered an instrument of the Russian state by the US State Department.
It is a big admission by Bashagha that despite the claimed air superiority provided by Turkey’s support – the Tripoli defending forces are still unable to push Hafter’s ground forces back.
On another note, Bashagha suggested that the country’s economic situation would continue to struggle as long as Libya’s oil production was halted by ‘‘Haftar’s militias and mercenaries’’.