Paris– The Commander of the Libyan Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, cautiously welcomed the meeting he held on Tuesday in Paris with head of the UN-backed Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj under the auspices of French President Emmanuel Macron and in the presence of the new UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Haftar said the joint communiqué, which was issued following the meeting in La Celle-Saint-Cloud near Paris, represented “a set of principles; and we want to deal seriously with the roots of the crisis.”
“There are things that we wished to receive and did not get; but there is no need to go into details,” he added.
Haftar stressed that the meeting held in Paris was Sarraj’s “last chance”, noting: “We will see the extent of his ability to implement the commitments.”
The Libyan army commander seemed to be cautious about the possibility of putting all the items of La Celle-Saint-Clouq communiqué into effect. He noted, however, that a meeting would be held every three months with Macron to follow up on the implementation of the commitments contained in the joint statement.
During Tuesday’s encounter, the two Libyan leaders signed a 10-point declaration, in which they pledged to commit to ceasefire, hold elections and integrate all militias within a unified national army under political control.
Haftar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the statement did not only reflect his views, but also the views of other Libyan parties. He noted in this regard that not all the agreed points were achievable, highlighting however that there was now much seriousness and commitment in dealing with the ongoing crisis.
Haftar expressed confidence in the new international envoy, describing him as a “virtuous and respectable man with a very rich experience”. He strongly criticized the former envoy, Martin Kobler, whom he said was “completely biased, and therefore lost credibility.”
“We were reluctant to deal with him for a while,” he noted.
On whether he believed that Sarraj would abide by his commitments, the army commander said: “That was Sarraj’s last chance; we will see the extent of his ability to implement the commitments.”
Asked about the process to unify the country’s militias under a unified army, Haftar said: “In the eastern region there are no militias; the situation must be resolved in the southern region. In the West, all the military support us.”
Stressing his rejection to any form of foreign interference, the Libyan official said that time was needed to arrange the country’s security situation.
“We want a real state, not a failed state; a country recognized by the international community, whose people can live like the rest of the world,” he stated.
On whether he intends to run for the upcoming presidential elections, Haftar said: “If the people want that, then I will”.
The army commander underlined the importance of adopting a decentralized political system to establish a strong state.
“It shouldn’t be the federal state that some Libyans are talking about … We reaffirm our strong rejection to the partition of the country,” he said, adding: “What we want is an extensive decentralization.”
Haftar noted that the Skhirat agreement, which was signed in Morocco in 2015, has “complicated the problem instead of solving it.”
“We will have a big role in introducing the amendments we want to the agreement, so that it suits the interests of the people,” he stated.