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article imageOp-Ed: Libyan dialogue participants pressured to sign agreement

By Ken Hanly     Sep 12, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - As is common with reporting on the Libyan dialogue what is most important is left out of most reports. The UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, is putting pressure on participants to reach a final deal by September 20.
There are two rival governments in Libya but with parts of the country not in the control of either government but of other groups including the Islamic State which controls the city of Sirte and surrounding area. Parts of the south are also controlled by competing tribes. The General National Congress(HoR) government is based in the capital Tripoli and controls much of the west of the country. The House of Representatives(HoR) government is located in the east in Tobruk and controls much of the east in the area formerly known as Cyrenaica. The HoR negotiators have initialed a fifth draft agreement prepared by Leon, now called the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). However, the GNC negotiators were absent as they disagreed with amendments made to the fourth draft without their knowledge or approval and as demanded by the HoR side. Powers given to the GNC in the fourth draft were deleted in the fifth draft. After being assured by Leon that amendments the GNC demanded would be dealt with at the meetings, the GNC sent a reorganized negotiating team to the Skhirat Morocco where the dialogue talks resumed last Thursday.
In opening remarks, Leon said: “We are starting a new round of talks in the Libya process, which we hope will be the final round, the moment of truth for the parties,”
Leon also said at the meetings: "We are very hopeful that they (the parties) will understand that the deadline of Sept. 20 must be the last one, must be the one that will allow Libya to get out of the crisis." Other target deadlines have been broken. The mandate of the HoR expires in October. Leon hopes to have the unity government or Government of National Accord, up and running just before the HoR mandate expires.
Reports say nothing about the parallel military dialogue that is supposed to be taking place. Unless the LIbya Dawn forces associated with the Tripoli government and the forces commanded by General Khalifa Haftar ,commander for the HoR, reach an agreement on a ceasefire and accept the political agreement no political agreement can be enforced. Leon has noted this several times in the past. However, as he is no doubt getting nowhere on this issue he reports nothing. The press dutifully ignores the issue as well. Neither Libya Dawn nor Haftar accept the LPA. Haftar calls the Libya Dawn militia terrorists and vows never to negotiate with them or sign a ceasefire with them. Haftar has been named along with his air force commander as being subject to EU sanctions. It is not clear if the EU ever followed through in actually implementing the sanctions. The press appears not to view this as worth checking even though Haftar has since signed a military agreement with Jordan and has the support of the Arab League, Egypt and the UAE.
To find out any details of the problems Leon is facing, one must turn to two news sources associated with the rival governments, the Libya Observer and the Libya Herald. There we find that both governments have made demands for continuing with the dialogue, demands that often conflict. Surprisingly, as even the pro-Tobruk Libya Herald points out the GNC has accepted the HoR as being the Libyan legislative body or parliament. In earlier periods the GNC has considered the HoR as dissolved after the Libyan Supreme Constitutional Court ruled last November that the elections for the body were unconstitutional. It still often refers to the HoR as the "dissolved parliament". The GNC does want however more power to be given to the State Council to block legislation if a majority within the group opposes it. Under the present LPA this power does not exist. The HoR has already sent a list of 12 names for the prime minister and one of his deputies to the UN. The GNC has not as yet sent names for the other deputy.
The GNC has demanded that two of its amendments be considered before considering the nominees for the Government of National Accord(GNA). The first has to do with the mechanisms for selecting members of the GNA and the second with standards for occupying military positions. The GNC wants to ensure that Khalifa Haftar and others who were part of the armed forces within the Gadaffi regime are not part of the military of the new government. This demand conflicts directly with a demand by the speaker of the HoR, Ageelah Saleh, who demands "no changes to the laws, decisions, and appointments already announced by the HoR". This would include the appointment of Khalifa Haftar as head of the Libyan National Army. This demand not only conflicts with the demands of the GNC but also of the LPA as it is now written which gives the role of commander in chief of the armed forces to senior members of the GNA.
Without Haftar being side-lined it appears no political solution is enforceable. There are signs that there are not only external forces trying to curb Haftar but internal division within the Tobruk government. Ibrahim Jodran, Jathran or Jadrhan is head of the militia that provides security for the main oil ports in eastern Libya. Haftar and his forces apparently have attacked a convoy of his troops claiming they were actually members of Daesh or the Islamic State. An account of the conflict is given in the Libya Observer which is pro-Tobruk and perhaps biased on the issue. If the Observer reports are correct they describe a very serious dispute within the military forces of the HoR. Jathran has been fighting together with Haftar's forces against Islamists in the east.
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 DigitalJournal.com
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