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article imageOp-Ed: Agreement if any between Libyan factions still not clear

By Ken Hanly     May 3, 2017 in Politics
There was no official statement after Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army associated with the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR) government met with Faiez Serraj head of the Presidential Council (PC) of the rival GNA.
According to Reuters: " Rival Libyan camps issued separate statements on Wednesday promising to calm tensions in southern Libya and fight terrorism, but offering no shared way forward for a political deal to unify the North African country." There are also conflicting reports about what was agreed to according to pro-Haftar sources some of which are described in a recent Digital Journal article. Reuters says that Seraj's statement does not mention the plans reported by pro-Haftar media to restructure the GNA government as well as hold elections next year. The two sides apparently tried but failed to agree on a joint statement. Reuters claims : Conflicting accounts of initial agreements and leaks of documents neither side signed have in the past confused international mediation and negotiations to end the conflict in Libya, which fell into factional fighting in the years after a 2011 civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi. I agree completely.
The statement from Serraj's office said that the meeting was held in order "to achieve a peaceful settlement for the Libyan crisis' and called for a "an expanded dialogue to establish national consensus". It also stressed the need to "uphold the goals of the February revolution" against Gaddafi. The statement spoke of the need to build up an army under civilian control, to combat terrorism, defuse the escalation of violence in the south and "taking all measures that guarantee the peaceful hand-over of power". A statement carried by pro-Haftar media focused on protecting the army and spoke of the "need to address the proliferation of armed formations." It also mentioned that amendments to the Libya Political Agreement had been discussed but did not give details. As discussed in my earlier article, various sources both on twitter and media reports gave conflicting details about amendments. So far it is not clear what if anything was agreed to and it is also clear neither Serraj nor Haftar signed any agreement. Much of what is happening may be just hopeful positive spin based on the fact that the two actually were able to meet. The Haftar forces used the occasion for a propaganda blitz that appears to have been largely successful.
There have been many tweets on the issue. As usual the UN envoy Martin Kobler spins the event positively in a tweet:"welcome & encouraged by President Sarraj-Field Marshal Haftar meeting in #UAE. Key step toward #LPA implementation, w/ continued @UN support" It is not clear exactly how the meeting has facilitated that. The meeting has not even resulted in a ceasefire in the south where clashes between forces loyal to Haftar and the GNA are still ongoing. A tweet reports: "That's right, artillery shelling around Tamanhint, clashes near Derna & rumors about *a new LNA OP* in Al Sabri / Souq al Hout, Benghazi." Operation Dignity will continue both in the south and elsewhere.
Perhaps this is the start of a positive process or it may be that Haftar is simply going through the motions of pretending to negotiate an agreement while continuing his Operation Dignity operations on the ground. According to Mattia Toaldo, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, the meeting shows that Haftar wants to be part of the political process and wishes to run as a candidate for president in elections next year in March as required by the Libyan Political Agreement. Perhaps after more meetings scheduled next week we will have a clearer idea of what is going on.
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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