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article imageOp-Ed: General Khalifa Haftar refuses to meet with UN's Martin Kobler

By Ken Hanly     May 10, 2016 in Politics
Tripoli - General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), refused a meeting requested by Martin Kobler head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Colonel Ahmed Mesmari, LNA official spokesperson, made the claim on his official Twitter and Facebook accounts. His tweet said: "LNA General Command rejects a meeting request by @Kobler SRSG." The message did not say when the request was made.
UNSMIL Public Information Officer Jean Alam said, when asked for a comment:" ...the United Nations is and will continue to engage everyone in the search for peace in Libya..We will knock on every door and we will meet with anyone we believe can help end the conflict and bring stability to Libya’’. The ”only people and organizations we will not talk to, are the groups designated as terrorist by the United Nations’.’
When comments were made that such a meeting might be a waste of time, Alam replied that, "the only time wasted is when we don't discuss peace. UNSMIL's had is always stretched to reach out to all sincere Libyans who want an end to the suffering of their people". The statement concluded:”(UNSMIL) will stop at nothing to seek and achieve what all Libyans want – peace and unity for the country’.’ When one removes all the rhetoric, Alam's reply simply confirm's the statement of the LNA General Command.
Haftar last met with Kobler in his eastern headquarters in Marj on December 16 last year. Kobler said the meeting had been a fruitful one. It had been just before the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in Skhirat, Morocco, the next day. The Herald describes the agreement as between the two warring factions, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) and the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC). This is a misleading description. The agreement was between members of both factions who agreed to the LPA. None of the signatories were authorized to sign by their respective parliaments nor did either parliament approve of the LPA. The agreement was a strategy used by the UN to avoid having the two parliaments agree.
According to the Herald: At that meeting, it was believed that Kobler had convinced Hafter to support the LPA in return for support of a Libyan National Army, fighting terrorism and supplying arms to the LNA after the approval of and a request by the Government of National Accord (GNA). I do not know who the people are who believed this. Haftar did not issue any statement saying he supported the LPA, and his supporters have consistently tried to avoid having the HoR vote on the issue. The Herald notes that relations between the two have cooled. I am not sure they were ever warm. The Herald claims: However, it seems that relations between the two have cooled as the Presidential Council and a large number of members in the HoR seem to be determined to avoid appointing Hafter as the General Commander of the unified GNA-led LNA.This is reflected in the refusal of HoR president Ageela Salah to convene the HoR for a meeting to approve the GNA prior to dropping article 8 of the LPA. Article 8 stipulates that upon the approval of the GNA by the HoR all main sovereign positions, including Hafter’s position, all revert to the PC/GNA.
While a large number of PC members and also the State Council members want to avoid appointing Haftar as commander of a unified LNA under the GNA, there is no evidence that a large number of HoR members want to avoid this. They want Haftar to remain as commander of the LNA, both those who support the GNA in principle and those who are against supporting it. Those, such as Salah, who oppose approving the GNA want Section 8 removed so that Haftar will remain. But so do those who support the GNA. Neither group in the HoR is reluctant to have Haftar inslalled as commander in chief of the LNA. Both parties demand he remain as commander in chief not just the minority who support Haftar. Both factions support Haftar.
There are more and more irritants developing between the HoR and Haftar and the GNA. The pro-active role of the State Council headed by Abdulrahman Swehli has enraged many in the east. The PC has, all of a sudden realized that they are commander in chief according to Section 8 under additional provisions, and requested there be no attack on Sirte until they had established a unified command. The GNA has established its own Operations Room for the battle against IS. President, Ageela Salah of the HoR has reacted with vigorous criticism of the move. The Presidential Council (PC) has appointed a unified leadership that excludes Haftar, ignoring the fact that their unified leadership excludes the strongest military forces in Libya. Perhaps, the GNA intends to supplement their own military forces by foreign troops.
Over a week ago, troops loyal to Haftar advanced towards Sirte from the south-east and east. He has stood by while the Islamic State launched successful attacks on Misrata militia on the west and south edges of the territory they hold. He seems in no hurry to attack the Islamic State — perhaps he wants to ensure that he has control of the oil ports being guarded by the Petroleum Forces Guard. As relations between the HoR and the GNA become progressively worse, it is not clear that Kobler will be able to get the HoR to sign on to the GNA.
There was a meeting planned in Ghadames of HoR members who support in principle the GNA but it did not happen. There is now a new initiative planned by some members of the HoR but no details were given as to what it involves.
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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