Haftar 'crucial for national conference in Libya'

But 'overly powerful general is a problem', Cristiani

21 March, 17:59

    (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, MARCH 21 - Libyan general Khalifa Haftar will have a crucial role in the success of the Libyan ''national conference'' announced on Wednesday by UN Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, North Africa expert Dario Cristiani said. ''Salamé's announcement shows, I think, once again, a sort of strange conceptual dissonance between the strategic reality on the ground and the political reality of diplomacy,'' Cristiani said. The expert is a visiting fellow at the International Centre for Policing and Security of the University of South Wales.

    ''From a methodological standpoint,'' he added, ''Salamé's approach is correct: the solution to Libya's problems must be a Libyan solution'', with ''an approach that focuses on the variegated territorial, social, and political forces as political players and possibly the only ones, without external intervention.'' The expert underscored, however, that there are still many players involved and that ''squaring of the circle in this context is difficult''. Moreover, in Cristiani's eyes, ''there is a fundamental problem that is still unresolved and which is at the root of this dissonance'' between 'diplomacy' and 'on the ground', that Haftar ''has by now such power'' at the territorial and economic levels as well as ''support from outside'' - compared with Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and other Libyans - ''that finding a lasting and stable political agreement with such a sword of Damocles hanging overhead is a difficult if not impossible task''. Cristiani, who is also an analyst for the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, noted that ''with Haftar's advance in the south (now successful, whereas two years ago he had failed and the Brak al-Shatti massacre forced him to withdraw), there is a clear lack of balance of the forces on the field. From this point of view, any agreement in which there is one player that is clearly much too much stronger than others, will always be a harbinger of instability''. The analyst added that, therefore, ''we are at a dead end'', with on one side ''a political agreement that officially recognizes that Haftar's centrality on the ground will lead to a series of problems, especially in Tripoli with local militias who feel in danger'', and on the other an agreement that ''ignores'' this centrality of the Cyrenaica-based general ''will cause further escalation'' in his military operations in an attempt ''to take direct control not only of territory in western Libya but also of creating problems for fundamental institutions that at the moment can influence'' but ''not control''. The reference is to such entities as the Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) and the Libyan central Bank, ''control of which has long been a goal for Haftar'', the analyst said.(ANSAmed).

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