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Mixed Reactions to Sarraj-Haftar Deal on Libya | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Khalifa Haftar (R), shakes hands with Fayez al-Sarraj in the eastern town of al-Marj on January 31, 2016 (AFP Photo)

Cairo – The head of Libya’s UN-backed government Fayez al-Sarraj and the Libyan National Army led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar agreed on Wednesday to calm tensions and combat terrorism but the journey towards ending the rivalry seems to be a long one given the lack of a clear roadmap on the country’s unification.

The two sides, a day after meeting in Abu Dhabi, UAE, said they agreed on cooperating to settle the crisis.

However, reactions conveyed by military, political and tribal leaders in Libya on the possible power-sharing between Sarraj and Haftar ranged from optimistic to less so.

International powers have for months been pushing the two men to discuss resetting the UN-mediated agreement that led to the creation of Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

One of Haftar’s arch military antagonists told Asharq Al-Awsat that legitimacy is decided by the Sarraj-led Presidential Council.

Brigadier General Mustafa al-Sharkasy, head of the Benghazi Defense Brigade (BDB), said that his bloc is not so against the agreement. However, military norms and conventions stand against readmitting Haftar into the army.

Leaked information suggesting that Colonel Salem Juha could be named army chief of staff – a post left vacant for over two years – may put some of Haftar’s adversaries at ease.

Juha will have to make difficult efforts on reconciling powerful military figures in the heavily armed town of Misrata, located some 187 km east of Tripoli, the very same town that has been skeptical towards Haftar’s intentions on ruling Libya after taking over army forces based east of the country.

On international representation in Libya, the UAE has called for the rapid appointment of a new head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya, replacing Martin Kobler, “as soon as possible.”

This would reaffirm UN commitment to being a strong supporter of efforts for resolving the Libya crisis.

For his part, Sarraj said that he agreed “to develop an integrated strategy on establishing a unified Libyan army, and gave emphasis to the military institution answering to civil authority.”

In the first Libyan civil war’s aftermath was the proliferation of armed groups and spread of violence and instability across the country, which re-sparked civil conflict in 2014.