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article imageOp-Ed: Libyan government in Tobruk withdraws from peace talks

By Ken Hanly     Feb 24, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - The internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tobruk in the country's east has voted to suspend participation in UN-sponsored talks between the competing militia and governments, according to a member of the House of Representatives(HoR)
MP Eissa al-Orebi told the Anadolu Agency: "Parliament has decided to summon parliamentary representatives to Tobruk for a meeting with lawmakers for consultations." He gave no reason for the move. The HoR representative to the talks, Abu Bakr Baeira, confirmed what al-Orebi claimed and expressed his regret at the development: "The decision is unjustified and doesn't serve Libya's interests..I'm surprised parliament took the decision, which will serve to hamper political dialogue.We have no option but to return to Libya in conformity with the decision." An anonymous parliamentarian claimed that the Tobruk govenrment pulled out because it feared that the international community would put pressure on them to accept Islamists in the unity government. Given that the other side is strongly supported by Islamists, one could expect that Islamists should be part of any unity government acceptable to the Tripoli government. The next talks were scheduled to take place in Morroco on Thursday this week and would be attended by representatives of both the Tobruk government headed by Abdullah al-Thinni and the competing government in Tripoli, with prime minister Omar al-Hassi.
The US supports the UN-sponsored dialogue. Jen Psaki, State Department spokesperson, told reporters in Washington:"We reiterate our call for all Libyan stakeholders to participate in the UN-led political dialogue. Those who choose not to participate are excluding themselves from discussions which are critical to combating terrorism as well as to the overall peace, security and the stability and security of Libya." The UN started the dialogue series back last September. Recent talks resulted in both sides declaring a ceasefire although the Tobruk government said that it would continue to fight terrorists. The CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar continued his offensive against the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries who had controlled Benghazi before his counter-offensive.
The UN envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon had met separately with officials from both governments in Ghadames Libya earlier in February with the Tripoli government representatives attending for the first time. Neither side recognizes the other and did not directly talk together but Leon called the talks "positive and constructive." The conflict between the two rival government is also in part a proxy war between Arab nations at odds with each other over support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt and the UAE support Haftar and the Tobruk government while Qatar and Turkey support the Tripoli government and its main militia umbrella group Libya Dawn.
Haftar has been putting pressure on the Tobruk government to give him more power even though he is already supported by Prime Minister al-Thinni and recognized as commander of the Libyan armed forces. Haftar even objected when the prime minister visited commanders in Benghazi without his permission. As shown in the appended video he is also said to have demanded that he be appointed as head of a ruling military council. This was in early February with the video posted on February 4th:
I have found no press follow up of this. However, a recent article in Reuters has a reference to the council: I am tired of politicians just talking and talking," said Raed, an oil service manager who has been demonstrating in front of Thinni's office. "Thinni is too weak to end this mess. We need a military council headed by Haftar." This is music to Haftar's ears. Haftar considers himself as Libya's version of President el-Sissi in Egypt. In an interview cited in a New Yorker article there is this exchange: When I asked about his personal ambitions, he said, “My ambitions are the people’s needs.”
“Once you’ve purified the country and it’s at peace, if the people asked you to run for President would you agree? “I would have no problem with that,” Haftar said, and smiled.
Haftar's plan appears to be to continue with his Operation Dignity launched in May last year, which in effect started the clashes between his militia and Islamists and other opposing militia groups. He expects help from Egypt and a lift on the arms embargo so that he has the firepower to win back territory from the Tripoli forces. So far both the U.S. and the UK oppose lifting the embargo and support the UN peace mission. The US has also continued their declaration of a state of national emergency with respect to Libya. Even though Haftar worked in the past with the CIA, the US and others in the west fear his ambitions and see hm as leading Libya into a disastrous civil war.
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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