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article imageOp-Ed: Even UN worried about Tripoli air attacks

By Ken Hanly     Nov 27, 2014 in Politics
Tripoli - UN special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon has been trying his best to persuade the parties in conflict to stop fighting and engage in dialogue. He has stressed that there can only be a political solution to the Libyan conflict.
While the groups of militia opposed to the government still are in conflict in some areas, the capital Tripoli is free of fighting for the most part and Benghazi was also under control of anti-Tobruk government forces until recently. In spite of the UN's pleading to stop fighting CIA-linked General Haftar and his militia launched an operation that is intended to retake Benghazi. This operation was apparently aided by planes that probably came from Egypt . Some claim they were piloted by Libyans allowing Egypt to deny that they were involved.
On November 6th the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. The UN said it was studying the decision. Apparently it is still studying the decision. It makes no reference to it that I have seen in recent statements including the one made about a phone call to Al Thinni who still is called the "prime minister".
The UN statement reports on a phone conversation of Special Representative(SRSG) for Libya, Bernardino Leon with "PM Abdullah al-Thinni": 25 November 2014 -Against the backdrop of the dangerous escalation in military operations in Libya and on-going UN mediation efforts to contain the situation, on 25 November SRSG Leon spoke by phone to Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, Head of Libya’s interim government. The two discussed possible options for ending armed hostilities, including a cessation of aerial attacks against Mitiga Airport in Tripoli, and other areas in western Libya. Leon said that the latest military developments would complicate the overall situation in Libya and undermine efforts to resolve the conflict through peaceful means. Given the actions of General Haftar with the blessing of the Tobruk government, it is clear that the Tobruk government is simply thumbing its nose at the UN. The UN has no power to force Haftar to stop fighting those opposed to the government and he has no intention of doing so.
Leon stressed to al-Thinni that he intended to press ahead with mediation efforts and hold a new round of talks in Ghadames. Earlier talks were only with elected members of the Tobruk House of Representatives who had boycotted the parliament. Leon stressed then that the Tobruk government was the only legitimate one. Since the Supreme Court ruling Leon has met with people associated with the competing government. The UN, even though it names some of the figures, refuses to give them any official title. Even since the Supreme Court announcement the language of the UN gives legitimacy only to the Tobruk government calling al-Thinni the prime minister of Libya. Leon insisted: " Building on the dialogue initiative launched in Ghadames on 29 September, the new round would bring together all the major stakeholders with the aim of forging consensus on ending the current state of polarisation and division affecting the State and its institutions." The Ghadames dialogue got nowhere and did nothing to stop the fighting. The one positive move that worked was the negotiation of a twelve hour cease fire in Benghazi.
Leon briefed al-Thinni on his meeting with other parties. Al-Thinni outlined conditions for the success of any dialogue. The UN statement says nothing about what those are. The final paragraph well expresses the complete divorce between what the UN-recognized government is doing and what it claims to be doing: SRSG Leon welcomed the Interim Government’s commitment to dialogue and to work on ensuring conducive conditions for a new round of talks to convene at the earliest opportunity. Both agreed to remain in close touch and to remain closely engaged on this issue. This is the same government that supports the Haftar campaign in Benghazi and gave him the green light to liberate Tripoli. The UN refuses to address issues such as this.
Meanwhile, a court in Tripoli issued an arrest warrant for General Haftar as a response to his bombing attacks on the Mitiga airport. Even Ban Ki-Moon called for the air strikes to stop and as indicated in the UN statement urged all sides to talk: "The only way to resolve the current crisis is through dialogue." The Tobruk government claims it was forced to strike Mitiga airport because it is controlled by a rival administration. Imagine the response if the al-Hassi government in Tripoli bombed Tobruk giving the same reason. The prime minister of the Tripoli government Omar al-Hassi said: "The national salvation government has always adopted the policy of peace, acceptance and dialogue. Yet now, we are forced by what's happened in Benghazi, Kalkla and Tripoli to embrace the policy of war and armed confrontation." The Tripoli government has urged a referendum on a new constitution being drafted and then elections. Both sides accept the committee drafting the constitution. The UN has yet to suggest elections and as some have suggested an interim unity government as a solution. The reason I think is clear. This is not acceptable to the Tobruk government.
A local resident told Al Jazeera: "We woke up to find airplanes striking three times. They hit houses where families and women were staying. They had nothing to do with the airbase." That sounds as if the government is bombing its own people. Clear evidence of the destruction of homes is given in the appended video. Since the bombing is not done by Gadaffi but by a UN and internationally recognized government don't expect the west to intervene. Haftar is out to rid Libya of Islamists and that is a popular theme next door in Egypt, and no doubt the US and many European countries would be happy to see Haftar be successful. However, many may be starting to doubt his abilities to rout his opposition.
Haftar is no doubt amused by the arrest warrant. An arrest warrant was issued ages ago against him after his first attempt at a coup early this year. The warrant was in effect when Al-Thinni the prime minister of the Tobruk government was also prime minister of Libya then. Now Al-Thinni is in Tobruk urging Haftar 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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