Haftar declares military rule, sparking international reactions
In a speech on 27 April, Libyan National Army (LNA) head Khalifa Haftar’s declared he had the people’s mandate to abolish the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and establish military rule in Libya. Such a declaration sparked numbers of reactions, nationally and internationally.
The reactions of Haftar’s main backers, namely the UAE, Egypt and Russia, have varied from tacit support through to clear disapproval. On 30 April, the UAE issued a statement in which it did not explicitly refer to Haftar’s statement, but instead “commended” the LNA for its “anti-terror operations” and expressed its “categorical rejection of the Turkish military intervention”. It also issued a vague call for Libyan parties to commit to the UN-mediated political process to end the war. On 28 April, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed Egypt’s adherence to a political solution in Libya but stressed this “should not lead to complacency in confronting extremist terrorist Turkish-backed currents in Libya, or engaging with them in negotiations about the future of Libya. On 28 April, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, told media outlets that Russia did not approve of Haftar’s attempt to declare military rule in Libya and stressed Russia has contact with all actors in the Libyan conflict and is committed to finding a political solution.
Predictably, Haftar’s main international opponent, Turkey, explicitly denounced Haftar’s declaration while reiterating its support for a political solution to the conflict. France did not directly comment on Haftar’s announcement, but instead reiterated that it supports a political solution in Libya, within the framework of the Berlin conference. Likewise, UNSMIL and Italy avoided direct reference to Haftar, but reiterated their support for a political solution and for the Libyan institutions legitimised by the LPA – namely the GNA. The US embassy expressed its “regret” over Haftar’s move, while stating it remained keen to engage him in serious dialogue about how the country can move forward.
The flurry of international statements issued in the wake of Haftar’s announcement highlights both the potential significance of his move and the desire of the key international powerbrokers involved in Libya to ensure they remain engaged by making their voices heard. While most of the statements and reactions were predictable in their vague content and lack of tangible action, it is significant that Russia has highlighted its disapproval of Haftar’s move and that the UAE and Egypt did not actively reiterate their support of him personally. This supports the analysis that his backers were blindsided by this move and this may increasingly lead his allies to strengthen their relationships with alternative high level interlocuters within the LNA or among eastern political institutions, with a view to eventually withdrawing their support from Haftar.