Haftar offers amnesty to Tripoli fighters who surrender, accuses Salamé of bias – Al Marsad

Libya, 26 May 2019 – Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar has offered an amnesty to members of militias fighting against the Libya National Army in Tripoli.

Announcing the offer in an interview with the Paris newspaper, Le Journal de Dimanche, published today, he also accused UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé of no longer being impartial in the Libyan crisis. He explained, too, that he had decided to launch the Tripoli offensive on 4 April because it became clear that Faiez Sarraj, the head of the Presidency Council, could not deliver on his promises of peace.

Regarding international demands for a ceasefire, he believed there would not be a need for one when the militias surrendered their arms. As to Sarraj’s demand that the LNA pull back, that was ridiculous, he said.

The offer of an amnesty came when he was asked if he accepted the idea of a ceasefire, although he had already rejected it when it was put to him by French President Emmanuel Macron during their talks in Paris on 22 May.

“Those who agree to hoist the white flag, to give up their arms and return to their homes will be safe and sound. They will not be pursued by the army and will benefit from an amnesty” he said in the interview, carried out during his visit to Paris.

Asked what he thought of Salamé’s warning last Tuesday to the UN Security Council that Libya could split if there were a long civil war, Hafter suggested that this was perhaps what some of his opponents wanted, and possibly Salamé as well.  He accused the UN envoy of no longer being impartial and of making more and more “irresponsible” declarations.

“He was not like this before. Having been an honest and impartial broker, he has become a partial mediator”, he said.

As to partition, the notion was an illusion, he said, declaring that it would never happen while he was alive. In any event, he said, it was impossible. Libyans would stay united and remain a single people.

Regarding the decision to launch the Tripoli operation on 4 April, Hafter said that there had been no other option. Sarraj has agreed to proposals in the UAE, Paris and Rome but had constantly added that he had to consult his advisors.

“We never got a clear response from him,” he said.

After the last negotiations, “I understood that it was not he who decided. As head of the Libyan National Army, I had to act.” People in Tripoli had asked to be freed from the grasp of the militias and of the Sarraj government he said. “We have only done our duty – to extend the power of the national army over the whole of the territory so as to bring peace and security.”

As to outside interference and foreign supplies of arms, Hafter was categorial that neither Egypt not the UAE had given the LNA any equipment.

“If Egypt and the Emiratis support us, it is to help us to peace, nothing more. They at not sending us arms”.

In contrast, he said, Turkey, Qatar “and even Iran” were publicly supplying arms to the other side.

Asked about elections and whether he would stand for the presidency, he said that elections were “the objective” but that they could not take place while there was no security or stability. As to himself being a candidate, it was too early to say and, in any event, it was not important whether he or someone else stood. “The essential is the security and prosperity of the Libyan people”.

To the final question about whether the current conflict risked enabling Daesh and terrorists to grow again in Libya, Haftar was confident. The LNA had defeated terrorists in Benghazi, in Derna and in the south and would do so elsewhere again, he said.

“Only death awaits the terrorists who want to attack us. Their corpses will litter the streets, the desert sands. Anyone who is in a hurry for Paradise and his 72 virgins should not hesitate to come. We will dispatch them there very quickly”.


An English translation of the full interview of Field Marshal Haftar in Le Journal du Dimache (with acknowledgements to JDD):

Why launch this offensive when, for the past few years, the international community had been working on a political solution to the Libyan crisis?

When arms speak, it is always troubling. But when it happens it is because there is no other solution. We tried to tie up discussions with Faiez Sarraj. In the UAE first, then Paris, then Rome. Each time, Faiez Sarraj reacted the same way. In front of us he said yes to everything, but also said he had to consult with his advisers. But in the end we never got a clear response from him. During the last attempt, the sixth, I understood that it was not he who decided. And as head of the Libyan National Army, I had to act, especially as the inhabitants of Tripoli had asked to be freed from the grasp of the militias, from Faiez Sarraj and his government. We have done only our duty – to extend the power of the national army over the whole of the territory so as to bring peace and security.”

Must all idea of a political compromise be abandoned?

A political solution naturally remains the objective.  But first you have to get rid of the militias. The problem of Tripoli is order and security. So long as the militias and terrorists remain, the problem cannot be resolved. We’ve had to use military means to open a political path. But we did not choose it. The war was imposed on us by Faiez Sarraj who announced a state of general mobilisation to confront us. All we did was to respond.

Do you accept the idea of a ceasefire as demanded, notably by France?

The solution is to bring about peace and security in Tripoli, to remove the burden of the militias. If they surrender their arms, there will be no need for a ceasefire.

Are you offering them an amnesty if they stop fighting?

Those who agree to hoist the white flag, to give up their arms and return to their homes will be safe and sound. They will not be pursued by the army and will benefit from an amnesty.

Are you ready to pull back your troops as asked by Faiez Sarraj?

His proposals are nonsense. We’ve been at the gates of Tripoli since 4 April and we continue to advance.  What he is asking is therefore not very realistic.

Last weekend, Turkey delivered some 30 armoured vehicles to the forces of Faiez Sarraj who is also being supported by Qatar.  The UAE and Egypt are supporting you. By prolonging the fighting, is that not internationalising the conflict?

On the one hand, we don’t want this war to continue. We want a quick outcome. But on the other hand, Turkey, Qatar and even Iran are publicly supplying arms to our opponents, unloading them in the ports of Khoms, Misrata and Tripoli. We’re fighting with our own arms. If Egypt and the Emiratis support us, it is to help us to peace, nothing more. They at not sending us arms. That has been shown by the international community which is overseeing the situation.

The UN special envoy Ghassan Salamé warned this week about the risk of partition in Libya. How do you react?

The partition of Libya is perhaps what our opponents want. Perhaps Ghassan Salamé wants it too.  But while I’m alive this will never happen.  Salamé makes more and more irresponsible declarations.  He was not like this before. Having been an honest and impartial broker, he has become a partial mediator. This sort of suggestion shows that among some of these people who talk about partition and inter-tribal conflicts, there is a common notion of it. But, again, this division is impossible because the Libyans will stay united and Libya will remain a single people. Everything else is just wild imagination.

Do you still want elections to take place?

That is our objective. But they have to be honest and transparent. They cannot be organised and people will not be able to vote freely so long as security and stability cannot be guaranteed.

Will you be a candidate if they take place?

When the conditions I’ve described are in place, it will be the time to talk about my candidates.  Let’s not go to fast! And whether it’s me who stands or someone else, that is not what is important. The essential is the security and prosperity of the Libyan people.

Are you satisfied with your meeting with Emmanuel Macron, and what role should France have in this new crisis?

My relations with Emmanuel Macron are very good. I consider him a friend. France is a great nation which maintains strong links with some of our neighbours, notably in west Africa.  That is why it wants a stable Libya and why it is watching out for our safety and peace.

Since the start of you offensive, terrorist attacks, especially those claimed by the Islamic State, have increased in the south and centre of the country. Doesn’t the situation risk enable a resurgence of the Islamic State in Libya?

We have fought terrorist groups in Benghazi, in Derna, in the Libyan south and we have defeated them. It is this task of eradication that we’ve undertaken in Tripoli. Only death awaits the terrorists who want to attack us. Their corpses will litter the streets, the desert sands. Anyone who is in a hurry for Paradise and his 72 virgins should not hesitate to come. We will dispatch them there very quickly.

(With acknowledgements to JDD)

Related Posts