Calling Khalifa Haftar a ‘war criminal’, Defence Minister Salah Al-Namroush says the warlord continues to violate the ceasefire with the help of foreign mercenaries.

Salah al Namroush, the defence minister of the UN-backed government of GNA in Libya on Friday reproached France for throwing its weight behind warlord Khalifa Haftar. 

Speaking to France 24, Al Namroush described French support to Haftar as a “shameful act", saying the warlord is a ‘war criminal’ who has no place in Libya's future, which includes the process of political resolution. The minister also said that Haftar’s forces were violating the ceasefire agreed upon by both camps in October as part of the 5+5 military commission.

Reteriating the GNA’s commitment to the 5+5 military  agreement, Al Namroush said Haftar continues to wage war with the help of foreign mercenaries as he recently attacked several provinces in the southern part of the country. 

Warning Haftar against further attacks, Al Namroush said the GNA's patience was wearing thin and it is on the brink of pulling out of the 5+5 military commission, which was set up by the UN to monitor the ceasefire deal.

The Libyan Defence Minister expressed doubts on the planned elections in December 2021, saying such a democratic exercise is conducive to a relaxed atmosphere. 

Al Namroush said Haftar should be sent to jail for committing 'war crimes' and that his involvement in mass slaughter had become evident after the discovery of mass graves in Tarhouna, a province that was controlled by one of the militias loyal to Haftar. 

Al Namorush added that the GNA is ready to engage in military battle against the warlord and his forces should the ceasefire were not to hold.  He also brushed aside France’s criticism of Turkey’s role in Libya, arguing that the strategic partnership between the GNA and Ankara was "clear and public", while the arrangements between Haftar and his foreign backers are made in secret.

Al Namroush indicated that the GNA was ready to engage in talks to forge a political solution, only on the condition, however, that warlord Haftar is sidelined once and for all.

France’s role in Libya and its support to warlord Haftar

Although French media claims France was interested in resolving the Libyan conflict through peaceful means, the country has gone out of its way to ensure Haftar and his militias were fully armed, even deploying French special forces to train the warlord's men. 

France has thus far feigned ignorance over supplying weapons and offering logistical support to Haftar's forces. Strong evidence exists, however, of its active involvement in the Libyan conflict - it dates back as far as 2015.

Much to the shock and embarrassment of the Macron administration, Paris's position on Libya was revealed in 2016 when three undercover French soldiers died in a helicopter crash in Benghazi. 

Since the event, France has time and again come under international scrutiny over its role in Libya's civil war. For one, it has violated the UN arms embargo on several occasions. 

In July 2019, a Pentagon investigation concluded that Paris had supplied American-made anti-tank missiles to Haftar's forces. Each missile is worth $170,000 and the US only sells it to "close allies," such as France. 

Contradicting the UN's position on the Libyan conflict, which was to assist Sarraj's government and involve other rival forces for a peaceful transition of power, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian previously expressed support for the Egyptian air strikes against the GNA. 

Le Drian is known to be the architect of France’s Libya policy. He reportedly convinced President Emmanual Macron that Libya was a "low-hanging fruit" and Haftar was the man to place all the bets on. 

According to French newspaper Le Monde, France has gone out of its way to ensure the warlord is fully armed, even deploying French special forces for the training of his militias. 

Along the way, Paris ended up antagonising its NATO partner, Italy. Matteo Salvini, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, last year accused France of supporting Haftar and showing "no interest in stabilising the situation". 

Salvini went on with his critique and declared that its European neighbour was going against NATO's position on Libya because its oil interests were opposed to those of Italy. 

GNA Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj in April accused the Macron administration of backing a "dictator."

Source: TRT World