Egypt prepares for Haftar’s candidacy in Libya presidential elections

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Egypt is renewing its interest in a possible future role for the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, after Turkey failed to fulfil its pledges by withdrawing its armed forces from Libya.

The Egyptian moves also come in view of the failure of the executive authority in Tripoli to counter armed groups and militias as well as new indications that elections might be postponed.

Haftar held meetings with officials in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss political developments. He also attended the graduation ceremony of a number of Libyan officers at the Military Academy in Cairo, a sign that confirms Cairo’s keenness to strengthen the LNA under his military command.

Egyptian sources revealed to The Arab Weekly that Haftar’s visit preceded a new round of the Libyan Political Forum that Cairo intends to host at the end of this week, with the participation of various parties who were present at the second Berlin Conference on June 23.

The same sources added that the visit of the US Special Envoy to Libya Richard Norland to Cairo on Tuesday and Wednesday was to hold a meeting with Haftar and consult with Egyptian officials. Norland, the sources said, wants to resolve the country’s successive political crises and create an opportunity for reaching a consensus that allows for holding elections on time before the end of this year.

Norland’s visit came as part of US efforts to prevent the postponement of Libya’s parliamentary and presidential elections and look for a solution to end the dispute over the constitutional basis and the legal framework required for holding elections on December 24.

The file of mercenaries was reportedly discussed during Norland’s meeting with Haftar in Cairo. Over the last few months, regional and international players have grown increasingly concerned in view of the ineffective way the Tripoli-based government has dealt with the issue of mercenaries. The authorities in Tripoli, sources say, have shown no interest in tackling the issue, rather adopting a pro-Turkey policy that has shaken the trust of many other players.

Haftar’s visit to Cairo came three days after Turkey confirmed its unwillingness to withdraw mercenaries and its intent to keep its military forces in Libya. Turkey’s intentions were clearly stated by Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who stressed that his country’s forces will not leave Libya.

The expert at the Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies Ahmed Aliba told The Arab Weekly that Haftar’s meetings with Egyptian officials and Norland (and Libyan personalities residing in Cairo) are aimed at confronting the pitfalls that threaten the political process, particularly tensions between the centres of power in Libya and a possible delay of elections.

Aliba noted Haftar is concerned with the political developments in Libya, as he and the LNA remain part of the political process. Haftar, Aliba said, may be one of the potential candidates in the upcoming elections, pending the outcome of the discussions on the constitutional basis. Aliba explained that Egypt is working to bidge differences between rival parties by virtue of its openness to many Libyan forces. In this regard, Cairo is hoping to maintain consensus between Haftar and the current transitional authority so as to prevent a rupture.

The forces of political Islam in Libya are reportedly attempting to obstruct plans to hold elections in Libya while manoeuvring to prevent Haftar from running for the position of President of the Republic.

The Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh is currently in Cairo. He is reportedly participating in political consultations and holding meetings with various parties.

Some of the sources who spoke with The Arab Weekly said Prime Minister of the National Unity Government Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh could visit Cairo soon, to hold talks on the current crisis with the aim of reaching understandings that would facilitate Libya’s plan to hold elections.

Libyan political analyst Muhammad al-Salak told The Arab Weekly that there are active American diplomatic moves in cooperation with Cairo to push the political process and complete the provisions of Libya’s political roadmap. The focus, he said, would be on pressuring Turkey to withdraw foreign mercenaries from the country and ensuring that no national figure would be excluded from running for elections.

He noted that the visits of Haftar and Norland to Cairo came amid heated discussions about the constitutional basis for upcoming elections. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum resumed its meetings on Wednesday, to discuss the constitutional basis for holding elections next December.

Washington supports the right of the Libyan people to choose their leaders via a free and fair democratic process. In this regard, it wants Egypt to resume its contacts so as to increase pressure on Turkey to withdraw its forces and remove mercenaries from Libya.

Source: Arab Weekly

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