Salameh Shows Optimism about Solving Libya Crisis after Meeting Haftar

General Haftar, commander in the Libyan National Army, attends a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in Moscow

Cairo- The United Nations special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh met on Thursday with Commander of Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar in the eastern city of Benghazi.

On its official Facebook page, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) confirmed Salameh’s meeting with Haftar, who is affiliated with Libya’s Tobruk-based parliament.

In a series of tweets, Salemeh said that Marshal Haftar expressed support for him and the UN Action Plan for Libya, and he informed him of his views for advancing political process.

Salemeh also updated Haftar on outcomes of House of Representatives and High Council of State Joint Drafting Committee meetings in Tunisia and next steps to resolve the Libyan crisis.

On Wednesday, Salameh met with Aqila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based parliament, which announced that its members will be invited to attend two meetings at its headquarters next week to discuss conclusions reached during the meetings that were held in Tunisia.

The UN envoy’s sudden round of shuttle diplomacy comes only two weeks after he proposed a “roadmap” for resolving Libya’s ongoing political crisis.

In a common matter, Head of the High Council of the State Abdulrahman al-Suwaihli is set to meet Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano in Italy’s capital, Rome, today.

Alfano will receive Suwaihili at the Foreign Ministry’s headquarters in Rome, according to Italian news agency Aki, which also said that Italy has received several Libyan officials; the most recent was Ahmed Maiteeq, Vice Chairman of the Presidential Council of Libya and Deputy Prime Minister of Libya, preceded by Field Marshal Haftar.

Moreover, during the celebration of the 44th anniversary of the war of October 6, 1973, Haftar pledged in a statement, issued by the Libyan National Army Command on Thursday, that “we, as military personnel, will not waste our historical gains, and we will not let go of any inch of our land.”

The statement said that “the Libyan national army stands with all the glory and pride before one of the Arab nation’s eternal memories made by the Egyptian army, and we had the honor to participate in it.”

“It is a glorious memory in the history of the Arab armies, which played an active role in proving the power and strength of the Arab soldier.”

In the field, militant clashes between armed militias renewed overnight in Tripoli on Wednesday, where residents and security sources said skirmishes took place near the Qasr Bin Ghashir district south of the city.

The Government of National Accord, which is supposed to manage the affairs of the capital, made no comment on the clashes that are the second in a week.

Turkey Opens Largest Foreign Military Base in Somalia

Turkish army's Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, center left, escorts Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre during an inauguration ceremony of the Turkish military base in Mogadishu on September 30, 2017.

Cairo– Turkey inaugurated its largest foreign military base in the world on Saturday in Mogadishu, Somalia, in a ceremony attended by Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, head of the Turkish military General Hulusi Akar, Somali leaders, and top Turkish military officials and diplomats.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, PM Khaire highlighted the significance of the training base for his country saying this is the right direction toward the development and the re-establishment of a Somali Army capable and ready to defense its nation.

“This training base has a unique significance for us because it is a concrete step taken toward building an inclusive and integrated Somali National Army,” said Khaire, adding: “My government and our Somali people will not forget this huge help by our Turkish brothers. This academy will help us train more troops.”

Khaire said the base also will help defeat extremism and the ideology that drives young Somali men into violence and terrorism.

For his part, General Akar said the base is the biggest sign of how Turkey wants to help Somalia.

“We are committed to help Somali government, and this base will cover the need for building strong Somali National Army. And it is biggest sign showing our relationship,” confirmed Akar.

The training facility is located south of Mogadishu and had been under construction for the last two years. It is spread over 4 square kilometers and has the capacity to train more than 1,500 troops at a time.

The base will be used to train Somali army forces in its fight against al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab attempting to overthrow the Somali government and install a strict form of Islamic law throughout the country.

General Akar arrived in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Friday where he was received by the commander of the Somali armed forces, General Mohamed Ahmed Jim’ale, at Adan Abdulle international airport in Mogadishu.

Akar then met with Somali President Mohammed Abdullahi Farmajo who had previously described the Turkish base as “largest Turkish base in the world”.

In other news, Shabab movement threatened to target US troops in Somalia according to a new recording attributed to the movement’s spokesperson Ali Tiri.

Tiri said that on Friday, Shabab had targeted a US-trained base of Somali forces in southwest the country. He threatened that the movement will target US forces next.

The movement issued the threats after a number of its militants and leaders were killed during US air raids announced by US Africa Command (Africom).

Meanwhile, Somali army announced its “grand victory” over Shabab militants in Lower Shabelle region following intensified clashes between army forces and the militants.

Somali News Agency reported commander in charge of the base, General Shegow Ahmed as saying that at least 20 militants were killed as the sides exchanged fire.

At least 20 militants were killed Friday, including commanders, when al-Shabab militants stormed an army base and the two sides clashed for hours.

The militants attacked the base in the town of Barire, 47 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu, is one of the liberated towns after it had been under Shabab control for a long time.

The movement declared that the attack is in retaliation for the death of 11 farmers with the help of US army.

Shabab aims to topple the government in Mogadishu and impose its strict interpretation of Islam in the country. It was driven out of the capital in 2011, however it is still heavily present in the south and center of the country.

Al-Qaeda-linked group still carries out frequent attacks on security and government targets, as well as civilians. It also targets African Union peacekeeping troops.

US Airstrikes Kill 17 ISIS Militants in Libya

US strike in Sabratha, Libya

Cairo – US Africa Command (Africom) said in a statement that strikes on Friday targeted an ISIS camp southeast of Sirte, killing 17 ISIS militants and destroying three of their vehicles.

However, Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) didn’t comment on the statement.

The command headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, issued the statement saying that in coordination with GNA and aligned forces, US forces conducted six precision airstrikes in Libya against an ISIS camp on Friday, September 22, killing 17 ISIS militants and destroying three vehicles.

The statement explained that the camp was located approximately 150 miles southeast of Sirte and was used by ISIS to move fighters in and out of the country stockpile weapons and equipment; and to plot and conduct attacks.

“ISIS and al-Qaeda have taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Libya to establish sanctuaries for plotting, inspiring and directing terror attacks,” the statement said.

Africom stated that while Libya has made considerable progress against ISIS, most notable by dislodging ISIS fighters from Sirte last year, the terrorists have tried to take advantage of political instability there to create safe havens in parts of the country.

The statement justified the attack claiming that had the issue been left unaddressed, it would have allowed for ISIS to plan attacks against the US, its allies and its interests around the world.

This is the first US strike in Libya since President Donald Trump took office in January.

The US’ last-known air raid in Libya was few days before the end of Barack Obama’s term on camps outside Sirte killing more than 80 ISIS militants, according to the Pentagon.

ISIS moved into areas southeast Tripoli exploiting the chaotic situation in Libya where two governments compete for gaining authority.

Meanwhile, Defense Ministry of Sarraj’s government called for a ceasefire in Sabratha and declared total rejection of the ongoing clashes.

The ministry issued a statement denying the reports saying it had issued orders to any party to begin the fight. It called for an immediate cease-fire and termination of all military operations in the city to put an end to bloodshed and destruction.

The ministry warned that any party that doesn’t abide by its orders to immediately and completely cease fire will be legally and morally responsible.

Washington Pledges to Restore Libyan Unity

Libya

Cairo – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged on Saturday the need for the international community to help the Libyan people find local solutions to allow their government to carry out its duties.

He vowed that Washington will help Tripoli “restore unity in Libya.”

Tillerson made his remarks before US diplomats in London after a ministerial meeting that was held there to discuss Libya.

Spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Ahmed Abou Zeid said that the gatherers in London had expressed their relief with the drop in terrorist activity in the North African country.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri attributed the drop to the reduction of terrorism financing in recent months.

Abou Zeid added in a statement that United Nations envoy to Libya Ghassan Salameh had studied the latest Libyan security and political developments. He had also presented his vision over the upcoming meeting on the crisis that will be held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The Assembly will convene in New York on Wednesday.

Abou Zeid added that the gatherers at the London meeting were agreed on the importance of Salameh’s efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis.

Shoukri meanwhile stressed that Egypt will continue to attempt to bridge the divide between the Libya leaderships on the civil and military levels.

Cairo supports reaching a consensus agreement that would ensure that a political settlement is reached based on the Skheirat deal, said the FM.

The deal was reached in Morocco two years ago under UN sponsorship.

7th London Conference on Libya Rules out Military Solution

UK

Cairo– London hosted a meeting on Thursday to support the political process in Libya and back the efforts of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his special envoy Ghassan Salame.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement that the six-nation ministerial meeting represented an opportunity to discuss ways to break Libya’s political stalemate and build momentum in support of the efforts of the Secretary-General and his special representative.

The foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the United Nations envoy to Libya attended the meeting.

“Libya is a front line in our common struggle against terrorism and illegal migration and we all share a vital interest in that country’s stability. Our shared goal is to break the political deadlock and rally behind the United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame as he seeks to bring all sides together,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said during a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The Italian foreign ministry said in a statement that the London meeting discussed the status of the political process in Libya and exchanged views on how to support the work of the United Nations in light of the meeting to be convened by the UN Secretary-General on the sidelines of the General Assembly in New York next week.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council extended on Thursday for one year the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), focused on supporting the North African country’s political process and key national institutions, as well as coordination of international assistance.

In a statement, the UN News Center said that the Security Council has unanimously adopted a new resolution, extending UNSMIL’s mandate through 15 September 2018, “during which time it would exercise mediation and ‘good offices’ to support an inclusive political process within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement; continued implementation of the Agreement; and consolidation of the governance, security and economic arrangements of the Government of National Accord (GNA), among others.”

Tillerson and British Prime Minister Theresa May touched on the Libyan crisis during their meeting in London on Thursday.

“We hope to focus on the mediation of the United Nations and the political process and give them a new impetus to reach a reunification in Libya,” a US official said.

On a different note, the International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda renewed her calls to the Libyan government on Wednesday for the immediate arrest and surrender of Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf al-Werfalli, who is alleged to have participated in war crimes in Libya.

Werfalli is suspected of directly participating in seven incidents involving the deaths of 33 individuals.

Stressing that Libya has the primary responsibility to arrest Werfalli and surrender him to the custody of the ICC, Bensouda urged Libya authorities to “use all means in their reach to do so immediately.”

She also expressed concerns regarding conflicting reports about the arrest of the Libyan figure.

London Hosts Ministerial Meeting on Libya

Salameh

Cairo – London will host on Wednesday a six-party ministerial meeting in the presence of the foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the United Nations envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salameh.

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abou Zeid said the meeting was aimed at reviewing the outcome of talks between Salameh and the different Libyan parties, in addition to efforts to resolve the crisis and consolidate accord and reconciliation.

In a statement, Abou Zeid said that the meeting was based on a British initiative to bolster efforts towards achieving national reconciliation in Libya.

It also calls for pushing for the implementation of the Skhirat Agreement by emphasizing the role of the UN, ahead of the high-level meeting on Libya, which was called for by the UN secretary general on the sidelines of next week’s UN General Assembly.

Salameh, for his part, warned that overlapping European and Middle Eastern peace initiatives for Libya were hampering his work to reach a settlement for the ongoing crisis.

In remarks to the Italian newspaper La Stampa on Friday, the UN envoy said: “There are six or seven different operations in front of Libyans’ eyes. Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Hours before the London meeting, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano held a telephone conversation with Salameh, the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement.

It noted that the two sides discussed a number of issues related to the political process to resolve the crisis in Libya.

The Italian minister reaffirmed his country’s full commitment to ensure the unity of the UN mission to “avoid losses and maintain the cohesion of the international community in support of the ongoing negotiations.”

The UN envoy highlighted “an important step forward”, pointing out that an agreement was reached on the need to amend the Skhirat deal, which was concluded two years ago in Morocco under UN auspices, said the Italian ministry’s statement.

Haftar Declines to Attend Congo Summit… Sudan Denies Closing its Borders with Libya

Haftar

Cairo – The Commander of the Libyan Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, was absent on Thursday from an African summit on the Libyan crisis held in the Congolese capital Brazzaville.

A media official at Haftar’s office said that the general had officially apologized for not participating in the summit, without giving further details.

The summit, which will be attended by Libyan Speaker Aguila Saleh, will kick-off on Saturday to discuss the Libyan crisis upon an invitation by the President of the Republic of the Congo Denis Sassou Nguesso, who chairs the African Union Commission on Libya.

The meeting aims to bring the views of the Libyan parties closer together, overcome the political stalemate and bolster reconciliation efforts in the country.

The African commission was established upon the recommendation of the African Peace and Security Council during the meeting of AU foreign ministers in New York in September 2014, with the aim of supporting the restoration of security in Libya.

The commission includes Mauritania, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa, as well as Libyan neighbor states.

On a different note, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour denied reports that his country has closed its borders with its neighbors, stressing that Khartoum was beefing border security to control smuggling.

The minister made the remarks after reports said earlier that Sudan has closed its borders with bordering states.

The minister denied the reports, asserting the new measures would control movement of arms, drugs and criminals through borders.

Security cooperation agreements are binding Sudan to its neighbors, the minister said, adding that Sudan and Chad had formed joint border forces to coordinate border guard missions.

The Sudanese Vice-President Hasbo Abdul Rahman, had earlier announced that 60 thousand four-wheel drive vehicles entered Sudan in the past period, smuggled from Libya, Chad and southern Sudan.

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday that the European Union aid to Libya to stop migrants entering Europe was fuelling a Libyan detention network that is based on kidnapping, torture and extortion.

Joanne Liu, the president of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), published an open letter describing “the horrific situation” for refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centers she visited last week.

Libya’s detention of migrants “must be named for what it is: a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion”, Liu wrote in the letter addressing European governments.

Libya: Haftar Forces Prepare to Deter New Attack on Oil Crescent Area

Spokesman of Libyan National Army (LNA) colonel Ahmed Al Masmary gestures during a news conference in Benghazi

Cairo- Amid a state of anticipation of a new attack by armed militias on the Oil Crescent area, which is controlled by the Libyan National Army led by Marshal Khalifa Hafter, at least five people were killed in clashes in Suq al-Khamis and al-Hira areas southwest of Tripoli airport.

Meanwhile, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salame was supposed to brief the UN with the situation in Libya on Monday evening, one month after taking office.

“Haftar is aware of the possibility of armed militias launching a new attack on the vital oil crescent area,” high-level Libyan sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Sources described it as part of an attempt to “change the military situation in the country by militias, some of which belong to the city of Misrata and are supported by the GNA,” which is headed by Fayez Sarraj.

Haftar, who is considered the strongest man in the eastern region of Libya, has controlled the oil crescent area after his forces deterred at least two attempts in the past year and early this year by armed militias to regain control over it.

Spokesman for the Libyan National Army Ahmed al-Mismari told Asharq Al-Awsat that the army has observed what he described as “great mobilization” in the outskirts of the city of Sirte and in its western part.

He said that terrorist groups in these areas have been mobilizing people, “whose destination is expected to be Gulf of Sidra to control the ports and oil installations and then move towards Benghazi and Derna.”

Notably, Haftar forces control Benghazi, but Derna is under the control of militias, some of which are affiliated with al-Qaeda.

Mismari stressed that the Libyan National Army’s forces are on high alert. “The operations rooms were given orders to act freely and open fire at any time needed”.

Haftar Threatens ISIS after Terrorist Attack on Army Checkpoint

Boris Johnson met Libyan Unity Government Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj (right). Reuters

Cairo- The Libyan National Army vowed Wednesday to eliminate ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the deaths of nine soldiers from the Libyan army in an attack on a checkpoint controlled by Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar south of Tripoli.

“At least nine soldiers were beheaded… in addition to two civilians” at the checkpoint about 500 kilometers south of Tripoli, Colonel Ahmad al-Mesmari said, blaming ISIS for the gruesome attack.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq propaganda channel on the Telegram messaging app, saying its militants had killed or wounded “21 members of Haftar’s militia.”

Notably, the Libyan National Army seized in June al-Jufra, including a key military air base, from the Benghazi Defense Brigades, a coalition that includes Islamists driven out of Libya’s second city by pro-Haftar forces.

Meanwhile, Head of the UN-proposed government’s Presidential Council (PC) Fayez al-Sarraj met in Tripoli Wednesday with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson in the presence of British Ambassador to Libya Peter Millett and UN-proposed government’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Sayala.
During the meeting, Johnson renewed the support of the UK for the PC in the aim of achieving accord among Libyan conflicting parties on the political scene.

“We are ready to provide Libya with the necessary support to stabilize the country, and we hail in that regard the road map of Sarraj as well as the joint declaration of Paris,” UK’s Foreign Secretary remarked.

Sarraj, on the other hand, stressed the need for resuming the agreements that were made when Johnson visited Tripoli last May, including cooperation in education, health, energy, and security, besides the scholarships for Libyan graduates at UK universities and institutes.

Italy Calls UN Support for International Libyan Initiatives

Tank is seen as fighters from Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government take position during a battle with Islamic State militants in Sirte

Cairo– The United Nations and Italy reiterated the need for uniting all international initiatives aiming at supporting stability in Libya under an international umbrella.

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni discussed recent Libyan developments with French President Emanuel Macron.

In addition, Italian Foreign Minister Agnelino Alfano discussed over the phone the Libyan situation with UN Sec-Gen Special Envoy and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya Ghassan Salame. During the phone call, Alfano expressed his appreciation for the efforts of Salame as a concrete evidence of UN’s support for the political process in Libya.

Both Salame and Alfano agreed on the need to bring all initiatives together within UN support to bring stability to Libya. They agreed to remain in contact over the coming days.

Aki news agency stated that PM Gentiloni and President Macron discussed over the phone migration issues, Libyan crisis, and counter terrorism. The phone call was made prior to the quartet summit including Italy, France, Germany and Spain determined to take place next week.

In related news, friends and family of Libya’s former prime minister Ali Zeidan said that he has been kidnapped by an armed group in Tripoli and they hadn’t heard from him since nine days.

Karam Khaled, a friend who accompanied Zeidan, stated that the former PM had returned to Libya in early August for the first time since his dismissal and was planning to hold a press conference to respond to his critics.
Khaled confirmed that Zeidan’s visit had been coordinated with Libyan Premier of UN-back government of national accord Fayez al-Sarraj.

“It was the GNA that prepared the visit, including protocol at the airport and the hotel reservation,” Khaled said, adding that an armed group attempted on August 12 to seize Zeidan but they were stopped by hotel guards.

He reported that gunmen from the same group returned the next day and forced them to hand Zeidan.

“Since then, we have had no information on where he is being held or his condition,” he said, criticizing the government’s “silence” regarding the incident.

Meanwhile, Zeidan’s son said the family had no news of his father’s whereabouts. Speaking by phone from UAE, the son stated that his father’s lawyer had told him no court cases had been brought against the former premier. He expressed the family’s concerns over his father’s health, adding that he holds the government of national accord responsible for the incident.

Zeidan became premier in 2012 and two years later, he was dismissed by Libya’s parliament amid accusations that public funds had been embezzled. Afterwards, he left the country despite a travel ban issued by the attorney general.

In October 2013, gunmen seized the then premier but he was released after several hours.

In other news, Libya’s Sharara oil field was gradually restarting on Tuesday after repeated disruptions causing production shutdowns.

Earlier in the day, the National Oil Corporation (NOC) had announced that a three-day pipeline blockade had ended and force majeure had been lifted on loading of Sharara crude at Zawiya terminal.

But the NOC removed its statement and an oil source said there was a further block on production at the field.

Details of the second reported stoppage at the field on Tuesday were unclear, but the official said it was due to action by a different group to the one that caused a closure at a valve on a pipeline leading from Sharara to Zawiya on Saturday.

The NOC said the closure that lasted from Saturday until Tuesday morning had occurred at valve 17 on the pipeline to Zawiya. It did not say where the valve is located.

“No group has claimed responsibility for the valve closure, and no demands were made, but NOC engineers dispatched to open the valve found a gearbox had been stolen,” the statement said.

“This gearbox was removed by criminals for one purpose only, and that is to blockade the line in future,” NOC Chairman Mustafa Sanalla was quoted as saying.