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article imageOp-Ed: Geneva Libyan dialogue talks end on positive note

By Ken Hanly     Aug 13, 2015 in Politics
Geneva - After meeting for two days at the UN offices in Geneva, participants in the latest round of the Libyan Political Dialogue concluded discussions yesterday. Bernardino Leon, the UN special representative to Libya, presided over the talks.
At first, it appeared the dialogue would take place without the presence of one of the main rival governments, the General National Congress(GNC) government located in Tripoli. At the last moment, the GNC decided to send delegates after Leon assured them in a letter that the amendments they wanted in the draft would be considered at the meeting. The main purpose of the meeting originally was to deal with annexes to the draft that other parties have initialed. Leon, to his credit, was able to hold two days of talks without any party leaving in a huff, as often has happened in the past.
As often is the case, the UN news release radiates optimism: The talks were held in a positive atmosphere, with the different parties emphasising the need to set aside partisan agendas and uphold Libya’s higher national interests. The parties reiterated their conviction that there can be no alternative to peace in Libya outside this dialogue process, which sets the framework for a comprehensive political settlement that is achieved through consensus. The parties have a target date of concluding the dialogue process within the next three weeks. This would lead to the parties adopting what is being called the Libyan Political Agreement. The release said that this would be followed by "its formal endorsement at the beginning of September." Typically, the release does not give the critical information as to who is required to give formal endorsement. Is it the two rival parliaments as the GNC understands it or just the internationally-recognized HoR government in Tobruk, as the HoR side understands and in accordance with the terms of the draft agreement as it is now?
The news release notes the importance of what is called the security track of the dialogue. The only progress so far has been Leon meeting with some Misrata military commanders without notifying or getting the approval of the Tripoli general staff. This appears a clear attempt to split the Tripoli military. He was also to meet with unspecified members of the Tobruk forces in Cairo. He never reported back. The news release fails to note that Libya Dawn the main Tripoli militia rejected the agreement as did the Tobruk head of the armed forces Khalifa Haftar and the head of the air force. Haftar has often said that the Tripoli militia are terrorists and that he will not sign a ceasefire with them or even talk to them. The EU has named Haftar and his air force commander along with several associated with Tripoli to be sanctioned. Haftar claims not to care. The parties are now told they should ensure their military officials "commence consultations with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and provide their inputs on ways of operationalizing the security arrangements outlined in the Libyan Political Agreement." Given that the armed forces of both governments do not even accept the agreement it is not clear how the politicians can do this. If either legislature tries to fire those military commanders opposed to the agreement the end result could be a military coup.
Although the GNC has insisted that there should be amendments to the draft before they would consider the annexes and choosing of prime minister and two deputies, the Libya Observer, a pro-Tripoli news outlet, has now used rather different language. The head of GNC dialogue team Saleh Al-Makhzoom told reporters following the talks that his team had received a formal letter from the head of UNSMIL Bernardino Leon explaining a mechanism for inclusion of GNC amendments in the UNSMIL draft.
"Our team will return to Tripoli to discuss this mechanism."
There was no mention of amendments in the UNSMIL release. The Observer also takes the annoying tack of not explaining what this mechanism might be. Before the UN had suggested that GNC concerns could be incorporated in discussing the annexes. The GNC had rejected that idea. The obvious mechanism for incorporating amendments into a draft is through amending the draft. However, the HoR and others are against that. The pro-Tobruk Libya Herald insists there will be no amendments and that the GNC was told that by Leon.
There are three main concerns of the GNC according to the Herald. First, are the decisions of the HoR since it began in August of last year. These decisions include the naming of Haftar as commander of the HoR armed forces. There is no way the GNC or many other would accept Haftar as the commander of the armed forces. The agreement does not envision this in any case but if all HoR decisions are legal there would be a conflict that the HoR could decide in favor of Haftar and no doubt if things get that far Haftar would insist on this. The GNC is also concerned about the appointment of rival heads of the neutral sovereign institutions, the National Oil Company and the Central Bank of Libya. Finally, the GNC would like to see the State Council in which the GNC would have a majority to have some real power in the new government. Its role under the present draft is advisory but under the earlier legislation HoR legislation could be blocked by a majority vote against it in the State Council. The Libya Herald sums up the situation as follows: According to other delegates in Geneva yesterday, it had been given assurances by Leon that its concerns could be addressed in the annexes to the Draft, still to be worked out.The GNC team returns to Tripoli today, armed with a letter from Leon, to explain the situation and await a vote on whether it can rejoin the next set of talks, to be held again in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat.These will work out and approve the annexes that will also contain the names of the new prime minister, two deputy prime ministers and other members of the government.
Leon tried before to convince the GNC that its concerns could be addressed through discussion of the annexes to the agreement. The GNC had rejected this and according to reports had demanded amendments in a letter to Leon and had been assured they would be incorporated in the final draft. Now it seems that there indeed will be no amendments to the final draft but some "mechanism" by which they will be incorporated. It remains to be seen if this "mechanism" will meet the approval of the GNC government and convince them to continue in the talks to resume soon in Skhirat, Morocco.
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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