Op-Ed: How to score an own goal, European-style – Al Marsad

By Sohail Nakhooda.

On 26 March ambassadors and other representatives in Libya from 13 European Union member states plus the EU’s own ambassador to Libya flew from Tripoli to Benghazi in an effort to persuade the general commander of the Libyan armed forces, Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, to support the General National Conference organised by UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé and give it sufficient time and space to try and succeed in resolving the Libyan crisis.

It was a remarkable show of collective determination. European ambassadors have been to see the field marshal before, but on an individual basis. This visit demonstrated, as few others have done, the international community’s acceptance of his role and importance in Libya today. Never have so many European diplomats joined together in what looked distinctly like an act of supplication.

And yet, the statement put afterwards by the EU ambassadors, contained in a report of by the EU Delegation to Libya, was distinctly barbed.

It started: “In our meetings today in Benghazi with Haftar and the House of Representatives we reaffirmed the EU’s unwavering support to the efforts of UN SRSG Ghassan Salamé and UNSMIL to broker a political agreement among Libyan stakeholders towards ending Libya’s political transition.”

There was no use of Haftar ‘s first name, no reference to his rank or position, no mention of the fact that he commands the Libya National Army. Just “Haftar”. Salamé’s first name, on the other hand, was used, so too his position as UN SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General).

The EU Delegation’s report of the event was only marginally better. It gave Haftar his first name and spoke of him as “General Commander of the Libyan National Army” but omitted his rank.

It is difficult not to believe that the ambassadors’ brusque reference to him compared to that of the special envoy was not deliberate. It looks like a determined effort on the part some, possibly all, of the European diplomats not to recognise his rank, his post or the existence of the LNA.

Some European diplomats have privately expressed reservations about using the rank, claiming that he promoted himself.  This is not true. He was appointed field marshal in March 2016 by Ageela Saleh, the president of the House of Representatives – the same Ageela Saleh who in March 2015 appointed him General Commander of the Libyan armed forces.

Describing him simply as “Haftar” is both disrespectful and stupid – stupid because the various European ambassadors want him to respect them and their requests. Yet, self evidently, they do not respect him.

Diplomats are supposedly to be diplomatic in their statements. In ignoring his personal name, rank and position and the army he heads, while trying to persuade him to listen to their pleas, the EU ambassadors have scored something of an own goal.


Opinion and Op-Ed articles do not necessarily reflect the views of Almarsad