‘Aguila Saleh unlikely to become Libya’s president’


TRIPOLI, JAN 29 – Aguila Saleh, President of Libya’s Tobruk-based House of Representatives and a staunch ally of warlord Khalifa Haftar, is unlikely to be chosen to lead the country ahead of elections set for the end of 2021, said a head of a political party.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Juma al-Qamati, chairman of the Change Party, dismissed the chances of Saleh becoming Libya’s interim president following a UN-brokered agreement.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) agreed last week in Morocco to appoint a temporary government until polls are held on Dec. 24, 2021 amid a ceasefire between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Haftar. Saleh is among those tipped to head the interim government.

Al-Qamati argued that both the Tobruk House of Representatives and the High Council of State in the capital Tripoli have stopped calling for a “new parliament that will unite Libya.”

“Saleh was rejected by Libyans,” he said. “I do not believe Aguila Saleh will be Libya’s temporary president. He will be very close to Haftar, Egypt, the UAE and Russia. He cannot be transparent and impartial and might become hostile towards Turkey and oppose the memorandums of understandings.”

Foreign mercenaries

Al-Qamati criticized the presence of foreign mercenaries in Libya despite a cease-fire agreement reached last October between Libya’s warring sides which also called for the withdrawal of all mercenaries from Libya within three months of its signing

He argued that a country like Russia, which has its own mercenaries in Libya, is waiting “to see the outcome of the political solution and whether its political and economic interests will be guaranteed.”

He noted that Russia has effectively joined the conflict in Libya through its Wagner mercenaries and soldiers it brought from Syria which Haftar has no control over.

Asked whether Haftar can start another round of the conflict, al-Qamati said he does not foresee such a possibility.

“Haftar is not competent to decide to start a war again,” he said. “He has completely lost on the military field. He does not have the authority to deploy the armed forces from one place to another.”

He also believes that Russia will not be keen to fight the GNA, which receives strong military support from Turkey.

US-Turkey cooperation in Libya

Al-Qamati hopes that the new US administration led by President Joe Biden will “put pressure on the mercenaries to leave the country.”

“The change in the US administration is very important. President Biden will have different policies than [former US President Donald] Trump,” al-Qamati said, adding Trump gave Haftar “a green light” through a phone call to attack Tripoli.

According to al-Qamati, Biden should stand with Ankara on the Libyan issue despite differences between the US and Turkey in other areas, arguing that Turkey’s role in Libya is “compatible with NATO,” since it supports a “legitimate and democratic” government that enjoys the support of the vast majority of Libyans.

“The reason that the [Libyan] conflict has continued for so many years is foreign intervention. If the role of this foreign intervention changes and a peaceful solution is supported, then an effective and stable environment can be created in Libya.”

Turkey’s game-changing role in Libya

Al-Qamati hailed Turkey’s support for the GNA as a factor that “changed the balance of power” in Libya and is aimed at protecting the “civil and democratic state project.”

Prior to Turkey’s intervention in Libya, Haftar’s forces, backed by the likes of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia and France, were on the verge of taking control of the capitap Tripoli.

The Libyan politician expects Haftar to be abandoned by his allies at the end of the political process.

“Haftar is about 80 years old, and now time is against him,” al-Qamati said. “I think he will step out of Libya’s military and political scene.”

While noting that international actors support a political solution in the war-torn country, he singled out the UAE for maintaining an “ambiguous” stance on Libya and insisting on supporting Haftar “to the end.”

However, he believes that the UAE’s role in Libya will “weaken” in the coming period as the Gulf nation has been “isolated” following the Gulf reconciliation earlier this month which ended a more than three-and-a-half-year rift between Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on one side and Qatar on the other.

Al-Qamati has been living in exile in London for the last 30 years due to his opposition to the regime of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Following the 2011 Libyan revolution, al-Qamati was appointed as the UK’s Special Representative in the National Transitional Council government headed by Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

Currently, al-Qamati serves as the special representative of Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj to the Maghreb countries of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and is also chairman of the Change Party.