Haftar agreed to Tripoli ceasefire says Salamé; accuses field marshal of coup attempt – Al Marsad

Libya, 16 April 2019 – Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar agreed to a ceasefire in Tripoli according to UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé. However, he said that the field marshal had refused to accept a demand by Presidency Council head Faiez Sarraj that he withdraw Libyan National Army (LNA) forces to where they had been on 3 April, the day before he launched his Tripoli offensive.

Salamé was speaking in an interview on Monday with the BBC World Service in which he also expressed fears that there could be foreign direct intervention in the conflict.  It would be “a game changer”, he said.

He did not say at what point Hafter had agreed a ceasefire or if there were any conditions attached.

In a separate statement broadcast earlier the same day to the BBC national station, Radio 4, Salamé described the LNA’s advance on Tripoli as a coup attempt. He said that the decision to issue arrest warrants for Sarraj and other officials in Tripoli “sounded more like a coup than counter-terrorism”.

He also said that the conflict in Tripoli had now reached a stalemate but because neither side accepted that at present they were therefore not ready for negotiations.

 

Transcript of Salamé interviews with the BBC:

From BBC Newshour, 15 April 2019. Interview by Lyse Doucet with Ghassan Salamé:

Salamé: So far the government in Tripoli, the internationally-recognised government, has put two conditions for negotiation. First, a ceasefire and second a retreat by Hafter to the position he was occupying before April 3.  Mr Haftar has accepted the first condition but has rejected the second one.

I think we are still in a cycle of mobilization on both sides and not of negotiation.

You need the two players to come to the conclusions that they are in a military stalemate for political negotiations to start again. But as long as either one believes that he can win unilaterally I don’t expect them to accept a negotiation.

Doucet: You must be infuriated with General Haftar’s allies. Look at his travel. He went to Riyadh and saw King Salman before he started this offensive. He’s just been to see President Sisi in Cairo. The French are also helping him. All indications are that they are involving him [sic], that they are encouraging him to continue.

I don’t think he needs any encouragement. I think he has been helped for counter-terrorism reasons in the past two or three years by all these foreign players, but now he has clearly a political intention which is to have control over the capital city where one third of the population lives and where all the institution are.

He may have taken them by surprise but now they have no other choice but to remain with him, I think.

The other side also is getting some help from outside. And all this is very sad because we were very close to all of them meet in Ghadames for a political agreement in which the main parties have agreed. I had to delay it because of this attack.

What do you say to countries like France? Reports from Paris indicate that the French are now thinking: “Well, look at the militias. Some of them are linked to terrorist groups who are joining the side of the government to fight against General Haftar”. They are saying: “‘Let General Haftar win. That’s the best solution.”

Well, I think there is no unanimity on that in the Security Council. I am worried now about cracks in the Security Council as much as by the fighting on the ground. If it appears that large powers are on either side of the spectrum here in Tripoli, this will not help finding a way out of the present crisis.

I hope we go to even a superficial, to even a minimalist unity in the Security Council. Without it, the situation on the ground will only worsen.

Now we are worried because there is news that some countries are thinking of sending some air missiles. This means that another escalation if the two sides start downing the other side’s planes.

Which country is that? There were reports that the UAE had sent more military supplies to General Haftar’s forces.

We are not sure about that. We know that there is a conviction here in the western part of the country that two airplanes came to Benghazi from the UAE last Saturday and that there also news that some Turkish boats have accosted [sic] in western ports. As long as it is the same kind of weapons we are used to, I’m not very worried. I’m worried of the quality or the technological advance of the newly arrived weapons can tilt [the balance].

But my worst fear is not that. My worst fear is that we may have a foreign direct intervention in the war.

This will be a big game-changer. And this will make things extremely difficult because I believe that if there is a direct foreign intervention in the war it will produce a counter intervention from other sides.

Therefore, I hope that this war that started basically as a Libyan-Libyan war remains at that level because it would be much more manageable than a war by proxy and by direct foreign interference.

If they send weapons or if they send money this is bad enough. But if there is any kind of direct interference this would be a game changer and this would be something to worry much, much more about.

 

BBC Radio 4  Interview with Ghassan Salamé, 15 April:

Q: What can be done to stop Haftar?

Salamé:  Well, what is being done on the ground now is that you have the armed groups in Tripoli who are in the frontline in trying to contain his attack against Tripoli and you have now a second line of defence made basically of Misratan fighters who have joined the Tripoli armed groups in order to organise another defence of the city.

The front line has not changed very much in the past month.

The new factor is the introduction of air strikes. We have had like 30 of them from each of the two sides in the past week. But these are old planes and their effect is limited. We are in fact in a military stalemate since eight days or nine days.

So what would you say to outside countries, including its seems France, who are providing backing to him?

Salamé: Well I think he has a number of countries supporting him. I believe that this started a long time ago, in fact three or four years ago, in a counter-terrorism logic. But what is happening now is not a counter-terrorism logic. It is an attempt clearly to control the capital of the country where one third of the population lives, and this was made even clearer by the fact that he issued a warrant against the prime minister Sarraj and others to arrest them, which sounded like a coup more than like counter-terrorism.

If there is a stalemate, as you describe it, and that stalemate lasts for months, perhaps for years, what is the impact on the wider region and, indeed, on southern Europe?

Well, if the main players accept they are in a stalemate and cannot win militarily, then the margin for a new political process can start. This is not the case as I am talking to you today. But I still hope that in the next few days both sides will understand that there is no big victory for either side and that they will open their doors again to the possibility of a political mediation because, whatever the time goes, a political solution is the only way out of the crisis.

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