It’s been five days since Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, vowed that the chaotic nation’s political crisis would come to an end in the next two weeks – comments he made to Al Arabiya news, with the promise of a national unity government.
On Thursday, Haftar gave his orders to enter Tripoli and, as he has long claimed, to liberate it. His staff told Libyan media outlet 218TV that he was tired of the militia chaos.
“Marshal’s message to militias: Hand over your weapons and you are safe,” said the LNA spokesman in a message early Friday. “Raise a white flag and you are safe, we will only fight who will use a weapon against us.”
That confirmation followed Haftar’s command to eastern Libyan forces to move into Tripoli from positions held just a few kilometers to the west. Haftar’s military regime rivals the United Nations-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez Al-Sarraj, who notified his security forces.
The Ministry of Health declared a state of emergency for all hospitals in anticipation of casualties.
The Haftar advance comes just weeks after Libya’s competing governments agreed to elections that were planned for last December but postponed as the security and humanitarian crisis continued. Meanwhile, the LNA has extended its territorial control in the south and then west.
It also comes as United Nations Secretary General António Guterres arrived to meet with Libyan leaders, ahead of a national conference planned in Ghadames beginning April 14. The United Nations, the League of Arab States, the African Union and the European Union all have affirmed their support for that process.
“I am deeply concerned by the military movement taking place in Libya and the risk of confrontation. There is no military solution,” Guterres warned. “Only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems. I call for calm and restraint.”
The governments of France, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the United States called for all parties to de-escalate tensions on Thursday.
“At this sensitive moment in Libya’s transition, military posturing and threats of unilateral action only risk propelling Libya back toward chaos,” the statement said. “We stand united behind UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Ghassan Salame as the UN seeks to break Libya’s political deadlock, improve transitional governance, and chart a path toward credible and peaceful elections.”
The UK has requested an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday.