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article imageOp-Ed: 27 GNC members meet with UN's Leon in Istanbul on Libya talks

By Ken Hanly     Sep 1, 2015 in Politics
Geneva - Bernardino Leon, the UN special envoy to Libya, is meeting today (Sept. 1) with 27 members of the General National Congress (GNC) government in Istanbul. The Tripoli-based GNC is the rival to the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR).
The meeting is designed to discuss ways to move the dialogue process forward. The GNC has demanded that amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement be incorporated in any final draft agreement that they will be willing to sign. Leon went ahead back in July and had a number of parties including the HoR representatives initial a fifth draft agreement, even though amendments had been made to an earlier draft that gave the GNC some power that took this power away. Amendments had been made on the demand of the HoR who rejected the fourth draft. These amendments were made without the knowledge or agreement of the GNC representatives. In reaction they abandoned the talks.
When Leon assured the GNC that their concerns would be reflected in any final draft, the GNC returned to recent talks in Geneva. However, when the negotiators returned to Tripoli the GNC decided that Leon's assurances were not sufficient. The head of the negotiating committee resigned apparently disagreeing with the president of the GNC on how to go forward. The GNC demanded further assurances before they would return to the dialogue. As a result two days of recent meetings took place without the GNC. Meanwhile, the GNC restructured their negotiating committee. However, it appears the GNC will return to talks this next Thursday and the Istanbul meeting is meant to clarify the situation. No doubt Leon will stress the importance of GNC attendance at the meeting. If they do not attend, Leon will no doubt continue without them and the GNC will lack any control over the make-up of the Government of National Accord. Even as a tactical matter, it makes sense for the GNC to attend even if they ultimately refuse to sign the final document.
As mentioned, the Istanbul meeting is taking place ahead of another round of dialogue talks planned to take place on September 3 in Geneva. According to the Libya Observer, a pro-GNC news outlet, the 27 members of the GNC will discuss ways of including GNC's amendments in the draft agreement. Leon has so far ruled out making any amendments to the draft and insists GNC concerns must be met through discussions on the annexes to the agreement.
GNC member Abdul-Rahman Al-Swalhi said that no political agreement would be acceptable that exempts all parties involved from liability. He said on his Facebook page: "All the Libyans should know that we will not accept any political agreement that exempts all parties, especially the dissolved parliament, from the legal responsibility for the crimes committed during the past period including killings, abductions, displacement, looting and destruction." The GNC refers to the internationally-recognized HoR government as the "dissolved parliament" because the Libyan Supreme Constitutional Court claimed last November that the elections for the HoR in June 2014 were unconstitutional and the parliament should be dissolved. Al-Swahali is probably referring among other issues to the attacks made by Haftar commander of the HoR armed forces as part of his Operation Dignity.
Leon still has made no report on the progress of the military dialogue that he has admitted is crucial for the success of the political dialogue. The Tripoli Libya Dawn forces have so far rejected the political agreement. Even though the HoR government has initialled the agreement, Khalifa Haftar commander of the HoR armed forces rejects it. He refuses to even talk with the Libya Dawn militia and calls them terrorists. He vows never to agree to a ceasefire with them. Leon continually ignores this issue even though it is crucial to any successful solution to the conflict between the two rival governments. The agreement would see the role of commander of the Libyan National Army removed from Haftar, one reason he does not support the agreement. He claims that his authority comes from his appointment by the HoR, which at present is true enough. Unless Haftar is sidelined there is no hope of any political agreement being successful. The international community appears split on this issue. The Arab League, UAE and Egypt all support Haftar. Haftar recently signed a military agreement with Jordan. All this is happening while Haftar is sanctioned by the EU.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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