Marshal Khalifa Hafter, Commander of the Libyan National Army, said that he informed French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who met him on Friday in the city of Rajmeh, outside the eastern city of Benghazi, of his “initial principles” to accept the presidential and legislative elections that the United Nations Mission intends to hold before the end of this year.
Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Haftar said during his one-hour meeting with the French official that no elections could take place “as long as the headquarters of the Electoral Commission are in the capital of Tripoli, which has been under the control of armed militias since three years.”
“If France is keen to hold these elections, it must understand the dangers of the presence of the Electoral Commission at the mercy and dominance of these militias,” Haftar told Le Drian, according to the sources, adding that the Government of National Accord, headed by Fayez al-Sarraj was “just a tool in their (militias) hands”.
Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that the meeting between Haftar and Le Drian was held “to discuss the political process in Libya and the war on terrorism led by the Libyan army.”
Quoting an official at Benghazi’s municipal council, the Chinese news agency said that Haftar told Le Drian that the army would not stop fighting terrorism in all of Libya.
The French minister, for his part, informed Haftar of the international community’s respect for the sacrifices of the army against terrorist groups and demanded the army command to respect the political process of the Libyan agreement and to work on a complete settlement with all Libyan parties, according to Xinhua.
Brigadier General Ahmad al-Mesmari, spokesman for the Libyan National Army, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Le Drian’s visit came within the French interest in the Libyan crisis and in extension to the Paris agreement sponsored by the French president.
“We welcome the holding of the elections, which was the most important output of the Paris agreement, and we demand these elections to be free, fair and safe under the supervision of the Libyan judiciary and international supervision,” he said.
Mesmari noted that Haftar’s call for the elections and for a leadership elected by the Libyan people “does not mean that he is seeking to access or control power, but he wants Libya to reach safety through an elected and democratic civil authority.”
Le Drian toured West and East Libya during a one-day visit and met Sarraj and Haftar as part of the mediation conducted by Paris since July to resolve the Libyan crisis.