Libya Tribune

Interviewed by Victor LADREYT

Jalel Harchaoui (*) comments on Mr. Fayez al-Sarraj’s visit to several European countries.

Fayez al-Sarraj met the German Chancellor, the French President and the President of the Italian Council, more than a month after the beginning of the military offensive by the Marshal’s troops Khalifa Haftar, a strong man from eastern Libya, to take control of Tripoli.

Jalel Harchaoui answers questions from L’Orient-Le Jour on the issues of this week’s visit by the head of the government Fayez al-Sarraj in Libya:

What lessons can Sarraj draw from these encounters?

He must have understood that France will not change his position one iota. 

France has always approached Libya through an extremely ideological prism influenced by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. 

Therefore, since Paris is not affected by the repercussions of security deterioration in Tripolitania, the French authorities will not change their opinion. 

France is detached from the tripolitan reality. She does not understand why Sarraj comes to Paris. 

France does not understand why she is reproached for supporting Marshal Haftar. She really believes that everyone should think that their position is neutral. 

Paris is entirely ideologized on this issue, while being sincere in his belief that the military option will bear fruit in a beneficial and constructive way in the coming months. 

France will not change its position because its position is too ingrained.

What about Italy and Germany, where Sarraj met the leaders?

Germany and Italy can not afford to be completely divergent with Paris. The Netherlands follows Germany and France, so from the moment Germany aligns with Paris, there is not much left to see in Europe. 

Italy is very lonely, she knows very well that Britain, which usually has an attitude similar to hers on the Libyan issue is drowning in her Brexit.

Italy is a little stuck in the sense that it is already suffering the harmful consequences of what Marshal Haftar initiated in Tripolitania in terms of migratory risks and in terms of disturbances of hydrocarbon exports. 

Even though Italy is aware that this is going badly for its interests, it can not afford from an official point of view to launch a diplomacy that is at odds with that of other European countries. 

Rome is aware that there is a great international impetus for the Haftar military offensive, so it can not go against the grain. 

So from an official point of view, Italy is friendly with Haftar, because it seems he will win. But in hiding, perhaps Italy will come to honor its military pacts with Misrata and Tripoli and delay the victory of Haftar.

So what can Sarraj expect from the international community?

The international community is very confused in its policy. 

Haftar’s great hope is that this blurred policy continues on the ground to garner international support thanks to its increased violence. 

We must look to the other poles of influence that are the White House and those who are able to spend money, those who are able to circumvent the arms embargo, so the Gulf States. 

In my opinion, this is not going to happen in Europe. This will be played in Washington. 

The Trump administration is in the interrogation right now. 

All we know is that on April 15, the President of the United States characterized Haftar’s campaign against terrorism, which is a blessing. 

But since then, nothing has been said. 

Other policies that are rather pro-Tripoli are in place officially. 

The Pentagon still officially considers Tripoli as its partner.

Washington is between two chairs, he seeks his camp. 

So there is a lot of lobbying right now. 

So if Sarraj is lobbying in Washington, what he does, it can pay off and soften Trump’s pro-emiracy stance.

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(*) Jalel Harchaoui is a researcher at the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands, geopolitical specialist in the Middle East and more specifically Libya.

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