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article imageOp-Ed: Haftar and Tobruk government try to sabotage Libya peace talks

By Ken Hanly     Mar 23, 2015 in Politics
Rabat - The UN and western powers simply refuse to face the fact that the internationally recognized government of Abdullah al-Thinni in Tobruk and his newly minted CIA-linked military chief Khalifa Haftar are on a mission to recapture Tripoli.
The UN Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL) and the UN envoy Bernardino Leon have warned the two governments, one in Tobruk and the other in Tripoli not to bomb or battle as this conflicted with the peace talks and the transition to democracy. In response, the Tobruk government bombed the one functioning airport in Tripoli before earlier talks and again on Thursday just as the Tripoli government representatives were ready to fly to Rabat Morooco for the talks. The talks had to be postponed until Friday. Since then the same Tobruk government and allied forces have tried to advance on Tripoli and there have been further air strikes on Tripoli.The Al-Thinni government proudly announced that "forces linked to General Khalifa Haftar have launched a military offensive to "liberate" Tripoli. On its Facebook page the government said: "The government salutes the operations launched by army units south of Tripoli which constitute the start of an offensive to liberate Tripoli and its suburbs," So instead of doing as requested by the UN, the Tobruk government is launching a military offensive, not against the Islamic State but against the Tripoli government, a government that the Supreme Court of Libya recognizes while declaring the Tobruk House of Representatives should be dissolved since it was the result of an unconstitutional election last June.
The dialogue is intended to lead the formation of a unity government and a cease fire as well. The talks are still going on. Originally, Leon hoped an agreement would be signed and announced today March 22, but this has been postponed until at least tomorrow. Leon said that reaching an agreement was "going to be difficult". Leon had already commented on the beginning of the offensive on Friday directed toward the capital saying: "[On Friday] we had a new military operation against Tripoli precisely during decisive moments of the talks and our reaction today is as strong as it was in the past.Military activities undermine the situation in Libya and prevent the unity of the Libyans fighting terrorism. This operation we condemn in the strongest possible terms because it's undermining dialogue." The strong reaction is a tongue-lashing UN-style that refuses even to name who is the object of the lashing. No doubt there will be more condemnation in the strongest possible terms of the renewed bombing of Tripoli. However Al Jazeera's reporter, Hashem Ahelbarra, said that the international community will hold "whoever is held responsible for undermining the political process by launching more attacks in Libya is going to be targeted by UN sanctions". It is clear that it is Haftar's armed forces, commander of the Tobruk government recognized by that same international community, who is bombing Tripoli and launching an offensive against the rival government. Prime Minister al-Thinni is bombing his own people. When Gaddafi did that the international community was up in arms and committed to regime change and the measures needed to ensure that right away.
Tomorrow, Leon is to leave for Brussels where there are talks with representatives from municipalities and other political stakeholders. Who exactly they are has never been publicized. The representatives of the two rival governments will remain in Morocco to draft plans for a unity government and a cease fire. Given that the Tobruk government is busy launching a military offensive, it is not clear what relevance the dialogue has except that it provides a convenient platform for western governments to support to show that their hearts are in the right place.
Western powers have strongly supported resumption of the peace talks. They see a unity government as a much better way to tackle the Islamic State in Libya than supporting Haftar's campaign against all Islamists and the Tripoli government. Taking Haftar's route would lead to civil war. A joint statement by France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain and the US said: We call on the Libyan political leaderships to act responsibly and to make clear their support for the dialogue and call on them to exercise authority over military and militia leaders and ensure civilian oversight and control of their actions and disavow military actions not taken in that framework,” Have they not noticed that the Tobruk government has given its full support for the bombing of Tripoli and the offensive against Tripoli while the peace talks are ongoing. So far neither side has even talked directly to the other. The Tripoli group are willing to do so but the Tobruk representatives refuse direct talks unless the other side recognizes them as the sole legitimate government. Even if an agreement is reached on a unity government and a cease fire by the dialogue group, there is almost no chance Haftar will agree. If the Al-Thinni government objects, they may find that Haftar burns down the Tobruk House of Representatives as he did the Tripoli parliament before when al-Thinni was head of the GNC transitional government.
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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