French Intervention, between utter rejection and dead silence

French Intervention, between utter rejection and dead silence

July 21, 2016 - 22:52
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Written By: AbdulkaderAssad

Libya has been productive of various reactions to the official announcement of the French authorities on the existence of French troops in Benghazi.

Many public squares in the western region were furnished by people denouncing the French military intervention, calling it a declaration of war on Libya and urging all parties to take up a strong stance against it. In the east, however, no reaction by people was reported.

Officially, the High Council of State condemned the French military presence and called it a blatant intervention and violation of the country’s sovereignty as well as a scam weaved by a permanent country at the UN Security Council and a sponsor for the Libyan political agreement. It also said that the French military presence in Benghazi is illegal as it is working with an armed faction, which adamantly opposes the political agreement and the UN-proposed government.

“The military assistance given to Khalifa Haftar by France must be decried and condemned in the strongest terms as he continues to oppose peace and stability initiatives in Libya.”

The Presidential Council also issued a statement that was described as flat and unclear since it did not directly condemn the French intervention, but only said it was extremely uncomfortable about the presence of the French military in eastern Libya without its knowledge and without coordinating with it. It added that it made a phone call with the French authorities to know the reason behind their presence and the details of the incident, welcoming at the same time the assistance of the friend countries in the war against IS on the condition that they coordinate with it and in line with keeping the sovereignty of Libya and its legitimacy intact.

The Presidential Council’s statement sparked angry reactions among people and caused it a lot of criticism from the public who accused it of treason and of covering the crimes of what they described as “the French occupation”. Many of the commentators on the Libyan political scene called on the PC to leave power and called it very weak and unable to live up to the current status quo.

On the other hand, the General National Congress, which is opposing the political agreement and its outcome, condemned as well the French intervention and the shelling of the French aircraft on Defend Benghazi Brigades saying it is a blatant violation that goes at odds with all the international conventions and the UNSC resolutions on Libya, pointing out that the Presidential Council is a partner in the offensive on the fellow Libyans and an accomplice in the occupational project that aims that dividing Libya.

The House of Representatives in Tobruk remained silent and had not issued any official statement neither for nor against the French intervention, however; some of its members issued personal statements – some in favor and others in disfavor of the intervention.

Moreover, while Al-Thanni government of the Tobruk-based HoR did not issue a statement, the Salvation Government of the GNC issued a statement decrying the French intervention and the French bombing of the Defend Benghazi Brigades killing and injuring a number of their fighters.

Likewise, the General Staff in Tripoli condemned the incident saying it is strange that the French authorities say they back up the political agreement and then at the same time support – militarily – the ones who oppose it, describing the French role as “tricky and cheap politics.”

However, the military officials of the Tobruk parliament and Haftar’s militias did not issue any comment on the incident, except some individual statements which either totally refuted the news or simplifying its significance.

“Yes, foreigners are in Benghazi and they are military experts, not soldiers taking part in the battle. There are 15 French ones, 10 British, 7 or 8 Americans.” Saqir Al-Juroshi, the Chief of the Air Force of Haftar’s militias explained.

Regarding the Libyan political parties, the ones affiliated with Haftar’s Dignity Operation, such as the National Forces Alliance and the Federal Bloc, remained silent. While, Justice and Construction Party and Al-Watan Party, which oppose the Dignity Operation, condemned the French intervention and called on the Presidential Council of the UN-proposed government to do its job by stopping the intervention and make sure it won’t happen again, calling for a probe into this blatant violation.

In addition, Libya’s Mufti, Sheikh Sadiq Al-Gharyani, denounced the incident saying the French intervention is a declaration of war and that Libya is facing a foreign invasion, calling on all Libyans to demonstrate and speak out their rejection of foreign military presence in Libya.

On Wednesday, France’s President François Holande confirmed that three French soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash while on intelligence operation in Benghazi. 
Defend Benghazi Brigades announced on July 17 that it had shot down a helicopter for Haftar’s militias and that all of the crewmembers were killed including foreigners.

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