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article imageOp-Ed: Libyan Political Agreement under fire along with unity government

By Ken Hanly     Nov 4, 2016 in Politics
For ages now there has been a constant refrain from supporters of the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) and the UN envoy Martin Kobler that the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) is the only way forward in Libya.
All of a sudden, the narrative is changing. Even though at a recent conference in London there were moves made to bolster the GNA and help it out with some of its many problems, there appears to be a concerted attempt to wean international support away from reliance on the LPA and the process of having the GNA present a new cabinet before the House of Representatives for a vote of confidence as required by the LPA. The HoR voted against approving the GNA last August 22nd. There is still no sign of a new cabinet being chosen nor any new deadline for when the HoR will vote. Faiez Serraj, the PM of the GNA claims in a recent interview that the HoR is not even asking that a new cabinet be submitted for approval: Now the HoR does not even want us to propose a third GNA. Mr Ageela Saleh has taken a prior decision to reject any proposed GNA. How can you work with this as a legislative partner? ‘I will not propose a new GNA for HoR approval prior to the HoR passing a constitutional amendment. If the HoR does not pass a constitutional amendment it abrogates its responsibilities in the LPA. If Serraj's claim is correct it is not surprising that the PC is in no hurry to create a new cabinet.
What should be clear is that the HoR and the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshall Haftar, will not accept the LPA as it stands because it has a section that sidelines Haftar and makes the Presidency Council(PC) commander of the GNA armed forces, at least temporarily. There have been numerous attempts at negotiation to get around this but none so far have been successful. There now appears to be a growing body of opinion that is suggesting that the LPA is part of the problem and must at the very least be changed and renegotiated. The Libya Herald reports: "The International Crisis Group says the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in Skhirat last December has to be changed. In a hard-hitting and lengthy report published today, it says that as it stands it cannot be implemented."
The International Crisis Group is described here. Crisis Group raises funds from mainly western governments, charitable foundations, companies and individual donors. In 2011/2012, 49 percent of its funding came from governments, 20 percent from philanthropic organisations, and 31 percent from individuals and private foundations...Crisis Group has an Advisory Council composed of three groups named the President's Council, the International Advisory Council, and the Ambassador Council, which includes corporations like Chevron and Shell, as well as some members listed on its website as 'Anonymous'.[6] Crisis Group has been criticised for serving the interests of its corporate and government funders. It has at times been criticized as serving western interests. That the group should come out with such an extensive hard-hitting critical account of the LPA and the GNA as well indicates that there could be a shift towards a new policy that tries to accommodate Haftar by moving away from or negotiating the LPA.
The country needs the following: To save the country, the calls for new negotiations to create a united government “involving especially key security actors not at Skhirat” – a reference to Khalifa Hafter and the Libyan National Army. Not only has the agreement altered the conflict, the conflict has altered the circumstances. Hafter’s successes in Benghazi and in the oil fields have upset the international community’s calculations and changed the situation on the ground. As a result, the international community’s instance in implementing the LPA as its stands is wrong. The peace process has to be “reset”.
Note that this position not only accepts the seizure of the oil fields and ports by Haftar but warns against any attempt to take them back by other forces as the Crisis Group report says: "The Presidency Council and allies should not take over the Gulf of Sirte facilities; the HoR and its forces should not move further west; the sides’ foreign backers should push hard to avoid an escalation." This in effect freezes the situation with Haftar having the upper hand and the greater leverage in any negotiations. Haftar already moved further west after he captured the ports taking towns further west on the way to Sirte.
The report suggests that the UN and other states supporting diplomacy should promote a forum for Haftar and major armed groups from the west to discuss de-escalation in the Gulf of Sirte, Benghazi and elsewhere. Presumably this would include Derna. Such a proposal makes little sense. Haftar's Operation Dignity is not about to make peace with western militia it considers its enemy or with the jihadists in Benghazi and Derna. What evidence is there that Haftar wants to take part in such a forum or that his supporters are willing to put enough pressure on him to do so?
The report notes that countries such as Egypt, the UAE, an Russia are giving Haftar overt and covert political and military support. While publicly subscribing to the peace process they at the same time undermine it but offer no concrete alternative. Why should they as long as they see their interests being served by supporting Haftar? The report notes the danger that the forces that liberated Sirte could begin to clash with Haftar's forces and that there needs to be a reset to the peace process to avoid new clashes over oil and gas.
The Crisis Group claims that the PC should negotiate with the HoR a new unity government. The report sums up some of its recommendations in the light of the crisis situation: “The prospect of Libya in free fall should give all pause, especially the vulnerable neighbours. Regional and global actors involved in the diplomatic process over Libya should converge on common goals, push for a renegotiation of the accord, use their influence to restrain the belligerents and nudge them toward a political solution and participation in a security track.” Among the common goals the international community are supposed to have are a unified army command and a reunified security structure. However, Haftar does not want to be within the chain of a political GNA command and it is not clear how the necessary security track of unifying the security structure is to be achieved.
As this report comes out, other articles critical of the GNA and western policy are also multiplying. There is one in the Middle East Eye and another as well. There is an Alarabiya article on the Crisis Group report. The Crisis report is well worth reading in its entirety.
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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