Khalifa Haftar, Army Head of Libya’s rival House of Representatives (HoR) assembly refused the possibility of cooperating with EU forces looking to address the growing migrant crisis despite calls for action from humanitarian agencies.
"We will certainly not cooperate, because we were not involved in resolving this issue," he said in an interview with CNN stating that the HoR had come to an agreement that doing so was not within its interests.
Haftar further evaluated that the HoR would only offer cooperation if the EU would assist his military campaign and said an “appropriate approach will benefit Libya” in its fight against the Tripoli based central General National Council (GNC) government the HoR proclaims as “terrorists” by “lifting sanctions against Libya -- specifically those against the army."
Haftar’s statements come after GNC Foreign Minister Muhammad Giyani expressed Tripoli’s willingness to cooperate with the EU to prevent further migrations while urging against the use of military force due to foreseeable dangers.
“You cannot just decide to hit. Let’s say you strike a particular site. How will you know that you did not hit an innocent person, a fisherman? Does Europe have pinpoint accuracy? So we are saying, ‘Let’s do this together,’” Ghirani said in an interview with the Times of Malta on Thursday.
“We have been doing our best to get Europe to cooperate with us to deal with illegal immigration but they keep telling us we’re not the internationally recognised government. Now they cannot just decide to take this action. They have to speak to us,” he continued.
Inner turmoil in Libya which began with the HoR’s attempted forced closure of the GNC in August has made it a hub for immigrant entry from Africa and the Middle East as two rival parliaments feud for control of the country, leaving internal matters such as immigration in disarray.
The GNC holds greater influence in Libya's internal affairs and economic institutions than its rival House of Representatives (HoR). However, the HoR based out of Tobruk, has enjoyed a greater audience from some members of the international community and ongoing UN peace talks aim to unify the two bodies.
The EU began deliberations on how to prevent further tragedies following the death of over 900 migrants resulting from a capsized vessel in the Mediterranean last week.
EU officials are currently debating resolutions set on either reinstating search and rescue missions off the Libyan coast or launching an aerial campaign to target vessels believed to be involved in human trafficking before set sail for Europe.
Humanitarian agencies including Amnesty International have urged the EU work in favor of rescuing migrants at sea.
Amnesty International's deputy manager for Europe, Gauri Van Gulik, said on Saturday: "We only see that mission patrolling right around the borders of Italy. But all these boats that we have seen go down have been going down further afield, so closer to Libya, and these boats are simply not reaching that area."
Following the tragedy, Tripoli announced that the Libyan coast guard captured 600 more migrants who were crammed into several rag-tag vessels attempting to leave the country.
Illegal maritime migration from Libya is a growing concern for the EU as escalating regional conflicts and growing poverty in Africa and the Middle East have led to a considerable rise in migrant numbers.
Nearly 1,800 people are believed to have died since January in attempted Mediterranean crossings, while around 36,000 completed the perilous journey.
The Italian government believes that 200,000 more people will attempt illegal crossings by year’s end.