The warlord general announced a new government in Libya to counter the UN-recognised government led by Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj.
Warlord Khalifa Haftar unilaterally declared himself as the ruler of war-torn Libya, calling the UN-brokered agreement “a thing of the past,” while making attempts to set up a puppet government parallel to that of the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
The move comes in light of Haftar's forces taking a heavy battering from GNA forces last month.
According to the UN-brokered agreement signed in 2015 in Morocco, the GNA has the sole authority to rule Libya and resolve its conflicts.
Haftar took a dig at the agreement saying that it has "destroyed the country" and that he will "work to create the conditions for building permanent civic institutions”.
However, in a televised speech on Monday, he did not define what role the elected parliament in Libya's east will have in a government he's trying to establish to counter the influence of the GNA. It's not even clear whether his allies in the east are backing his sham government.
During his speech last week, Haftar asked his supporters to organise demonstrations and give him the mandate to rule the country while mentioning the possibility of a "constitutional declaration," raising fears that the country could end up being partitioned.
Prime Minister Fayez al Sarraj, leader of Libya’s UN-recognised government, said that warlord Haftar’s declaration of himself as the ruler of the country once again revealed that his coup project must be ended.
“Hunger for power and foolishness reached its peak level. Declaring a new coup, the putschist added a new attempt to his long series of coups d'etat,” Sarraj said.
On the other side, GNA adviser, Mohammed Ali Abdallah said: "Haftar has once more exposed his authoritarian intentions to the world, he no longer seeks to conceal his contempt for a political solution and democracy in Libya.
He added that Haftar’s statement was “the final, desperate act of a defeated man".
Reactions of the other countries
Russia, which has been one of the main backers of Haftar, stated that it is surprised by the self-declaration as unilateral ruler of Libya.
Moscow urged the parties to restart negotiations, saying: "We advocate for the continuation of an inclusive inter-Libyan dialogue within the framework of the political process, and there is no military solution to the conflict.”
On the other hand, the US published a statement via its Libya embassy Twitter account in which it said: "The United States regrets... commander Haftar's suggestion that changes to Libya's political structure can be imposed by unilateral declaration.”
The US embassy also urged Haftar proposal to engage in “serious dialogue” about the country’s next steps.
"As civilians continue to suffer during the holy month of Ramadan and the Covid-19 pandemic threatens more lives, we urge the LNA [Haftar's forces] to join the Government of National Accord in declaring an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities," the embassy added.
Khalifa Haftar has long been accused of seeking to impose a new military dictatorship in the war-torn country as he has made similar remarks previously. He appeared on television multiple times, saying that he was taking control of Libya. Since then, his offensives against the UN-backed government and Tripoli have caused hundreds of deaths while displacing 200,000 people.
Does Haftar’s unilateral move paving the way of his own end
As warlord Haftar announced his acceptance of what he called the ‘popular mandate’ to assume leadership of the next stage in Libya, it would also mean a clear coup against the House of Representatives and the government of Abdullah al Thani in east Libya, which have been main political bodies and backers of him.
Despite the fact that the speaker of the House of Representatives in Tobruk proposed a political solution to move forward, Haftar insisted on his declaration.
The Presidential Council of the Libyan reconciliation government stated that none of the countries could "brag about the legitimacy of Haftar after this announcement," stressing that the warlord turned up against the political institutions that supported and appointed him.
The council urged its members to join their colleagues in Tripoli in order to start a comprehensive dialogue.
The presidential council member, Mohamed Ammari stressed that the government will keep fighting against Haftar saying that by making his unilateral declaration he has confirmed that he hasn’t got a partner in the political process anymore.