By Sami Zaptia.
London, 3 July 2020:
The U.S. State Department reported yesterday that it had held virtual talks the previous day with Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) on militia demobilization (DDR). The LNA talks follow on from similar talks held with the internationally recognized Libyan government in Tripoli last week (Wednesday 24 June).
The State Department said these talks come ‘‘In keeping with U.S. policy of active neutrality on Libya’’ and that its delegation ‘‘emphasized that the LNA’s affiliation with the Wagner group, a Russian Ministry of Defense proxy, and perpetuation of the oil shutdown are at odds with U.S. interests’’.
In a veiled threat, it also said that it ”reaffirmed that armed groups that attempt to spoil the political process or engage in destabilizing acts must not be tolerated – and risk international sanctions”. Last time Libya’s militias ”spoiled” the political process, be it Hafter in April 2019 or Libya Dawn in 2014 – the US and international community failed to take action.
It is noteworthy that the talks were not conducted with Hafter himself. Libya observers are watching and speculating on the status of Hafter after his military setbacks. This is especially so after the 6 June Egyptian peace initiative and to see whether Libya’s House of Representative head, Ageela Saleh, is the new go-to representative in eastern Libya for the international community.
It is also noteworthy that the US has increased its (”active neutrality”) interest in Libya with the increased role of Russia’s Wagner.
Here is the full US State Department statement.
‘‘On July 1, the U.S. Government and representatives of the LNA met virtually for discussions on militia demobilization. Battlefield developments and progress in the UN-facilitated 5+5 talks have created a renewed opportunity and an imperative to address issues related to militias across Libya. In keeping with U.S. policy of active neutrality on Libya, this meeting follows U.S. engagement regarding militias with GNA representatives last week.
The two sides affirmed that all Libyans should enjoy the protection of capable and accountable security forces, free from the dangers posed by militias, non-state armed groups, and foreign fighters. The LNA delegation briefed the U.S. delegation on its commitment to UN-facilitated dialogue and LNA proposals to make progress on security sector reform (SSR) and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) efforts. The U.S. side reaffirmed that armed groups that attempt to spoil the political process or engage in destabilizing acts must not be tolerated – and risk international sanctions.
The U.S. delegation stressed its opposition to all foreign interference in Libya and discussed the imperative of an immediate ceasefire and return to UN-facilitated security and political negotiations. The U.S. delegation emphasized that the LNA’s affiliation with the Wagner group, a Russian Ministry of Defense proxy, and perpetuation of the oil shutdown are at odds with U.S. and Libyan interests, undermine Libyan sovereignty, and increase the risk of conflict that could damage critical oil infrastructure. Both delegations reaffirmed a desire to de-escalate the conflict and find sustainable solutions that result in a secure, sovereign, and prosperous Libya.
The United States was represented by National Security Council Senior Director, Major General Miguel Correa; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Henry Wooster; and U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Richard Norland. The LNA was represented by the Head of the LNA Command Apparatus, General Aoun Al Farjani; LNA Secretary General, General Abd Al Karim Hadiya; and Office Director for the LNA General Commander, General Kheiri Al Tamimi.