Haftar’s forces say Libya PM ‘has no authority’ after preventing his visit to Benghazi
Rogue Libyan General Khalifa Haftar's forces stated on Wednesday saying that the recently formed Government of National Unity, headed by Prime Minister Abdul Rahman Dbeibah, had no authority over them.
A statement from Haftar's "Libyan Arab Armed Forces" - also know as the "Libyan National Army" - read that government officials would only be allowed to enter territories it controls under Haftar's protection.
It added that Dbeibah's government had no authority over Haftar's militias and no relationship with them.
Haftar's forces control most of eastern and southern Libya and has previously fought against troops loyal to Libya's former Government of National Accord (GNA), which was internationally-recognised.
In October 2020, the GNA and a rival Haftar-allied administration based in eastern Libya negotiated a peace deal. Under the deal, the GNA stepped down in March to make way for Dbeibah's government, which is in power on an interim basis until elections can be held.
The statement by Haftar's forces appears to signify a break with the peace deal, which aims to place rival Libyan armed groups under a single command.
On Sunday, Haftar's forces prevented an advance security team from Dbeibah's government from landing in Benina Airport in the eastern city of Benghazi, forcing the prime minister to cancel what would have been his first visit to eastern Libya.
The new statement by Haftar's forces says that it "welcomes a meeting of the government in any area that it protects, as long as it is coordinated with the interior ministry and its apparatus in Benghazi", while emphasising that the government has no authority over the "Libyan Arab Armed Forces".
Haftar's forces, however, have also demanded that Dbeibah apologise for a statement he made last week when meeting with people displaced from Benghazi to Tripoli, the Anadolu news agency reported.
"Benghazi will return to the homeland and you will return to your families," the prime minister said.
"These statements are rejected, and he [Dbeibah] must respect the blood of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives against terrorism and extremism," a statement read on the pro-Haftar Libya Al-Hadath TV channel said.
In response to the repeated delaying of his visit to Benghazi, Dbeibah said on Wednesday that "the government will visit Benghazi soon, to look into the needs of the people of the city".
"The government will not allow a few obstacles to stop it serving all Libyans," he added.