08:39 GMT31 May 2020
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    PALERMO (Sputnik) - The head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar said at a meeting with head of Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA), Fayez Sarraj, that the GNA prime minister did not have to resign ahead of the general elections in the country, an Italian diplomatic source told reporters on Tuesday.

    "[Haftar] said we do not have to change the horse until we cross the river. In this way, Haftar let it be known that he did not demand the premature resignation of Sarraj before elections were held," the source said.

    Haftar and Sarraj met earlier in the day on the sidelines of the Palermo Conference for Libya, a source at the Italian Prime Minister's Office told Sputnik.

    READ MORE: 'NATO Wasn't at the Table': Stoltenberg Says Europe Initiated Libya Intervention

    Libya has been torn apart by conflict after long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011. There are two major forces in the country: the UN-backed Government of National Accord, headed by Sarraj, operating in the country's west and headquartered in Tripoli and Tobruk-based parliament in the east is cooperating with General Khalifa Haftar, who leads Libyan National Army.

    Russian Stance on Libyan Settlement

    Addressing the situation in Libya, the head of the Russian Contact Group for intra-Libyan settlement Lev Dengov told Sputnik that the participation of Moscow in the ongoing Palermo Conference is a sign of Russia’s importance in the future of the country.

    "I would say that the fact that [Russian Prime Minister] Dmitry Medvedev will take part in this conference speaks for itself. It means we are represented at a high level at this conference. And, definitely, the fact that [Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe] Conte himself gave the invitation to take part in this conference at the latest meeting with our president [Vladimir Putin] shows that Russia is very important and will play a big role in Libya's future," Dengov said.

    READ MORE: Russian Foreign Ministry Refutes Allegations of Moscow's Meddling in Libya

    The head of the contact group added that Russia's partners in the West were aware of its role in Libya and were taking Moscow's opinion into account. According to Dengov, many foreign partners are consulting with Russia on Libya given Moscow's extended knowledge of the country's political life.

    He noted that Libyan political actors struggle to find common ground due to a tendency to periodically change strategic partners.

    "There is no aspiration to listen to each other among the Libyans themselves. That's an issue today. The problem, in my opinion, emerged because the Libyans are making a huge mistake as they do not completely decide on their partners — they change them from time to time," Dengov said.

    Commenting on the action plan that aims to advance political reconciliation in Libya and help the Libyan people achieve lasting peace and security, presented by UN special envoy for Libya Ghassan Salame in September 2017, Dengov stated that while Russia unequivocally supported the initiative, there was no established coalition of external actors and interested countries that could act as a united front in order to bring Libya to real countrywide reconciliation.

    "Even the conference, which is taking place now [in Palermo], each part comes separately, each side expresses its opinion and we see no unity or single position, not even from those who came. These are representatives of parliament, representatives of the presidential council, and some other entities," Dengov noted.

    Contact With Gaddafi Family

    The Russian official also stated that Moscow was in regular contact with Saif Islam Gaddafi, who remains part of the Libyan peace process.

    "Saif Islam Gaddafi is regularly in contact with us at the moment as a participant of the Libyan settlement process. Saif Islam is thinking positively and it is possible to say that Saif Islam will be a political process participant today, in one way or another, for one simple reason that there is a certain group of people who have been supporting everything that is linked to [late Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi and his family," Dengov said.

    READ MORE: Italy Faults France for Gaddafi's Downfall and Migrant Crisis

    The son of toppled Libyan leader was captured by rebel militants sentenced to death in absentia for war crimes by the self-declared government in Tripoli in 2015; however, the case has been harshly criticised by the United Nations human rights office. In 2017 he was released from prison in Zintan.

    Libyan Elections

    The head of the Russian Contact Group added that no foreign actors or existing resolutions can guarantee that the results of Libyan general elections will be upheld.

    "Everyone wants elections. That's for sure. But, at the same time, we have to acknowledge that there is a danger that even if elections are held, one of the parties, an influential one, will simply tell us: 'We do not like the results of these elections because, we don't like it, we did not win.' This will lead to a conflict, because today there is not a single resolution, even external actors who could guarantee that the results, the conditions of these elections will be implemented," he said.

    Libyans were originally expected to go to the polls on December 10 to elect a president and a parliament, seven years after their longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed. However, UN Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame last week warned the UN Security Council that the deadline could not be met and suggested putting off the elections until next spring.


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