The chairman of Libya’s High Council of State, Khalid al-Mishri, has warned that a ceasefire in war-torn North Africa could be resolved if elections do not take place by the end of the year as planned.
“Unless we have an election near December 24, I am afraid the conflict will return,” al-Mishri told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview.
Libya entered the civil war after NATO’s intervention in 2012 that ousted the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The nation was divided between the UN National Accord (GNA) government west of Tripoli, and the eastern forces under the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar.
Referring to the dangers that could threaten the election, al-Mishri said: “Security is very tight and Haftar is an obstacle. We must see real efforts from the West to force Haftar to leave the threat of democracy.”
In 2019, Haftar launched a war with the eastern factions at GNA. The conflict was like a world war as foreign nations competed for control. Haftar received support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Russia, and France, while Turkey supported GNA.
Haftar’s persecution in Tripoli and military action ended after Ankara provided the Tripoli-based government with weapons, Turkish troops, and Syrian military personnel.
The end of the war in October 2020 led to the formation of an interim government, and in March he was given the task of leading the country in elections in December 2021.
The issue of foreign fighters has become a major issue as the country reunites and comes as United Nations special envoy for Libya Jan Kubis recently said efforts to open the Libyan highway, connecting to the east and west of the country, were stabilized.
Al-Mishri said his opening was protected by the presence of foreign fighters. “We will not be able to pave the way for such forces.
“On our side there is no soldier outside 200km [90 miles] west of the highway and when we talk about foreign troops we mean Turkish troops. There is no such thing, ”he said.
To address the problem, al-Mishri said Haftar has limited power in fighting foreign wars the most important city of Sirte and the western part of the street, especially the Russian troops from the Wagner Group.
“Haftar and his troops have no control over Wagner’s party. They will not do anything about it,” he said.
The new Libyan government says it is appropriate to speak directly to Moscow. “We have discussed the matter with the Russians. I can’t say we have made much progress but the matter is on the table,” he added.
According to a UN estimate by December, 20,000 foreign freedom fighters and militias remained in the country including Assyrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians.
New Libyan Foreign Minister Najla al-Mangoush was recently accused of plotting to assassinate a pro-Ankara faction in Libya, demanding that Turkish troops leave the country along with foreign fighters.
The High Council of State, led by al-Mishri, is considered close to Turkey. He also said the council would help Turkish troops leave the country, but as soon as elections were held, peace would return, and Haftar’s danger would be gone.
Asked about the foreign minister’s comments, al-Mishri said: “[She] they arrived at the venue on the condition that they give alms to others in order to please everyone. He did not know the area well or Libya. They do not know much about the problem on the ground. ”
‘Exercising external forces’
In December 2019, the UN-backed Libyan government requested Turkish military assistance against Haftar.
The Turkish military remains the mainstay of the country in addition to al-Watiya helicopter training and naval operations in the coastal city of Misrata.
Al-Mishri said Turkey’s presence in Libya would not be comparable to that of other foreign powers because “it is legitimate and legitimate. On the other hand, we have an uncontrollable military force that no one can control, not even Haftar.”
The role of the Turkish military in Libya comes as relations between Ankara and the new National Unity Government have been evident following Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh’s visit to Ankara in April.
Ankara is keen to see the construction projects offered to companies before the war in Turkish hands, a role Dbeibeh has committed to.
In addition to the previous trials, Turkish companies signed signs of new agreements, including electricity, shopping malls, and airports on the Dbeibeh tour.
The Libyan leader reiterated his commitment to the 2019 naval agreement signed by GNA and Ankara that Greece violates their rights.
“The agreement is in the best interests of the Libyan people,” al-Mishri said in an interview with Athens, which he said was a violation of the UN Maritime Convention.
Lots of work
Although Turkey may have strong ties with the interim government, it is not the only country that wants to make itself part of the oil refinery.
Companies from the former colonial regime in Libya, Italy, are expected to work to extend the main sea route to Tunisia. France, Haftar’s first aide, has reopened its embassy in Tripoli as part of a reconstruction campaign.
“Turkey will have a good position,” al-Mishri said, “but the country is big and economic activities are plentiful. With the right government we can satisfy everyone.”
My great Libyan friend, Egypt, also wants to benefit. Prior to the war, Libya was an important site for Egyptian migrant workers. Cairo also has security with its neighbors.
Egypt supported Haftar for the first time and in June 2020, when his anger against Tripoli subsided, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi threatened the military intervention in Libya if GNA moved westwards to the wise city of Sirte.
Al-Mishri said since the establishment of the new government relations have changed.
“The Egyptians were on the wrong side. They were looking for a strong ally to ensure security on their western border and had the impression that Haftar was that ally,” he said. “Recent messages have broken the cycle and we are in good communication.”
‘Making a new tyrant’
He also spoke about the need to reduce political tensions between Ankara and Cairo. “We have realized that when we have good relations between Egypt and Turkey, this will be a good sign for Libya,” Al-Mishri said.
Although the war is nearing its end and progress is being made in the integration of state institutions, Libya is still struggling. Weapons continue to enter the country and politicians have been accused of delaying government reforms in an effort to retain power.
The High Council of State is calling for a referendum election before December.
Some parties have criticized the commission, as well as its eastern counterpart in Parliament, for using a referendum as a way to delay the vote.
Al-Mishri said holding a referendum was important. “If we were to hold elections without a referendum on the constitution and bring in a new president, it would be tantamount to creating a dictatorship.”
If the referendum does not take place in a timely manner, it may be argued that the establishment of policies – approved by the High Council of State and House of Representatives – could be amended for five years.
This summer it will test whether Libya can move forward with a political response that has been going on for almost 10 years. The proliferation of foreign fighters and the transfer of weapons means that foreign powers participating in Libya are blocking their betting.