CAIRO – 14 April 2018: Libyan officials refuted on Friday the death rumors of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army, asserting that he is alive and well.
Fadhel al-Deeb, political advisor of Haftar, revealed that the Libyan military leader entered a hospital in Paris to conduct medical tests to check on his health.
He said in an exclusive statement to Egypt Today that Haftar visited Cairo recently and then traveled to France to conduct medical examinations, denying media reports that Haftar experienced a stroke or a fatal disease.
"We assure the Libyan and Arab people and ask them not to pay attention to such rumors on various media outlets," Deeb said.
He asserted that Haftar is in good health, and he will return to the Libyan territory within days, after reassured by doctors on his health.
In the meantime, the media office of Libyan military spokesperson Ahmed al-Mesmari also denied the death rumors, in a statement on Facebook on Friday.
Since the ouster of Libyan long-time leader Muammar Ghaddafi more than six years ago, the war-torn country draws wide international and regional attention, causing a serious threat on the national security of North Africa and Europe.
Libya, which is struggling to get through the critical political situation that it has been experiencing since 2011, is not only trying to unify its army, but is longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections by mid-2018.
Egypt has hosted several meetings to bring the Libyan conflicted factions to the negotiations table, alongside members of Tobruk’s House of Representatives, to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement, which aims at ending Libya’s civil war.
Haftar now controls the eastern side of Libya and works in cooperation with the government of the House of Representatives, known as the Tobruk government. He has been backed by Egypt and the UAE in facing terrorist groups that have plagued the country following the ouster of Ghaddafi.
Major Libyan military factions convened in Cairo on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 for negotiations aimed at consolidating the Libyan army - press photo
Egyptian foreign policy in Libya
The major obstacle in the face of any international or Arab participation in ending the crisis in Libya is the lack of a Libyan partner that would support any involvement. Since 2014, Libya has been drawn to a civil war between two major factions, one led by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern “Operation Dignity” forces and Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, as well as other militant groups.
Therefore, there is no official side recognized by all parties in Libya, but there are two opposing factions, roughly equivalent in terms of power, competing for legitimacy. Nonetheless, neither side appears to be able to tip the scales of this conflict in its favor.
Policymakers in Egypt believe that Libya should have a unified body representing all sides in the war-torn country. However, this requires the elimination of terrorist groups that are plaguing the country and standing in the way of any regional or international attempt for reconciliation.
The Egyptian state is aware that any intervention in Libyan affairs will enrage the Libyan people due to religious and national sensitivities.
Therefore, Egypt called for a meeting in August 2014 to discuss the formation of a coalition force with the United States and other Arab nations. The final recommendation of the meeting, held in Cairo, did not suggest the formation of any Arab or international military intervention in Libya, but it called for the immediate cessation of all armed operations in order to support the political process in Libya.
In December 2015, the Skhirat Agreement was signed by major parties in the Libyan conflict under the supervision of UN envoy Martin Kobler in the city of Skhirat, Morocco. The agreement recommends a peaceful transition of power and the establishment of a national unity government. However, the agreement failed to achieve the desired stability on the ground because it lacked consensus.
Attempts to solve the crisis
Egypt’s officials held several meetings with their Libyan counterparts as well as members in Tobruk’s House of Representatives to resolve the Libyan crisis and amend the Skhirat agreement.
In December 2016, Cairo hosted a conference attended by Libyan officials and representatives from the country’s numerous factions, where they issued five proposed amendments to the agreement. The conference concluded with a decision to amend the eighth article of the Skhirat agreement that outlined the jurisdiction of the Libyan army chief commander.
Negotiations to unify the Libyan military were held as a part of Egypt’s initiative that kicked off in July 2017 to unify the military institutions. The first meeting aimed at creating a framework for the initiative while the second and third meetings were held in Cairo from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2, 2017, to follow up on the results of the first meeting.
The fourth meeting was held from Dec. 6 to 9 to restructure the Libyan army.
Egyptian Officials met again with Libyan military forces in Cairo on Feb. 21, 2018 in order to continue the discussions. The meetings delved into the methods used to unify and restructure the Libyan military forces after a long split that resulted from the outbreak of the Libyan revolution in 2011.
The sixth round of the negotiation on the unification of the Libyan military establishment was held on March 23 in Cairo.
In a press release issued at the conclusion of the meeting, the Libyan factions convening in Cairo agreed to resume with their talks in an attempt to complete the establishment of the four technical committees that the Libyan factions agreed on forming during the previous rounds of talks as an initial step towards the consolidation of the military establishment of Libya.
The meeting also concluded with reaffirming the participant’s keenness to move ahead with unifying the Libyan army whose top priority is to maintain and preserve Libya’s national security and peace and stand firm against foreign interferences.
Members of the Security Council welcomed recent efforts to strengthen an inclusive political dialogue among all Libyans, supported by Libya’s neighbors, international partners and regional organizations within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2259.