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article imageOp-Ed: Libyan unity government talks to resume in Morocco

By Ken Hanly     Jun 24, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - Earlier this month, members of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government based in Tobruk eastern Libya were split on whether they would even continue to participate in the peace talks.
No doubt there was a great deal of pressure by many western countries urging them to continue to take part in the talks for a unity government. The talks were designed to find a political solution to overcome the division into two separate governments — the Tobruk internationally-recognized government that controls much of eastern Libya and the Tripoli, GNC, or Salvation government that controls much of the west of Libya. Various other militia groups also control areas of Libya including the Islamic State that controls Sirte, but has lost control of its other main base Derna.
The HoR voted to stay in the talks only after proposing significant amendments to the UN draft. HoR lawmaker Tareq al-Jouroushi said that "The House of Representatives agreed on amendments of the last draft by the U.N. with 66 out of 76 members voting." Joroushi said the amendments included watering down the powers of the proposed second body the State Council and also would make it more representative of the parties. In the third draft of the UN proposal the State Council had 120 members with 90 coming from the General National Council. If a majority of the Council objected to legislation emanating from the HoR it would be blocked. The GNC negotiators were also returning to the talks and had their own amendments to propose.
Many articles such as the Reuters article cited above, do not go into detail about the HoR amendments and are completely lacking in any analysis of the significance of the amendments.
Hamza al-Amrouni of the assembly president‘s office said that the HoR wants to ensure that the commander of the armed forces be either a prime minister appointed by the House of Representatives or the House of Representatives itself. This would ensure that Khalifa Hafter who was named commander in chief of the Tobruk armed forces remains in effect the real power in the military of the new government. This will be completely unacceptable to the Tripoli militia who are a target of Khalifa's Operation Dignity a military operation begun over a year ago in May of 2014, intended to defeat Islamists in Libya and that includes militias associated with the Tripoli government.
More details of the HoR proposed amendments are to be found in a Libya Herald article. The Herald is usually pro-Tobruk. The amendment would change the name of the council to the State Consultative Council and would be based in the south of Libya in the city of Sabha. The HoR also wants the appointment of major state figures such as the governor of the Central Bank, the Public Prosecutor and head of the Audit Bureau all to be appointed by the HoR and not by the Dialogue team as is planned now. This simply robs the process of any neutrality. The changes in the State Council render it powerless to block any HoR legislation and renders the GNC powerless. To rub salt in the wounds, the GNC would have only 45 of the 120 seats in this toothless body in any event. The third draft of the UN also rendered the GNC powerless by having the State Council as merely a consultative body. The GNC firmly rejected that idea. In order to obtain agreement of the GNC they needed to be given some power since they had given in to a crucial demand of the Tobruk government that the elected HoR be the one recognized legitimate legislative body. Up until granting this, the Tobruk government had claimed it was legitimate and the Tobruk HoR was dissolved. In November of 2014 the Libyan Supreme Court had ruled that the June 2014 elections for the HoR were unconstitutional and the HoR should be dissolved. Of course the Tobruk government rejected the decision and the international community and the UN studiously ignored it. The UN said they were studying the decision just after it was made. Nothing has been said about it by them since. Here is the Libya Observer a pro-Tripoli or Salvation government news source on the Tobruk decision to rejoin the talks: The dissolved parliament agreed yesterday, with some modifications, on the UNSMIL's fourth political solution draft with a unanimous voting.The modifications require the recognition of the dissolved Parliament as the Libyan Army's Commander in Chief. They also require the proposed State Council to be located in Sabha with 45 pro-parliament members and other 45 pro-GNC members besides 30 independent ones as well as to play the consultant's role only. You will never run across language like that in mainstream press. Proper protocol for referring to the Tobruk government is "the internationally-recognized Libyan government" or for variation the "elected Libyan government". There will never be a mention of the Libyan Supreme Court decision. In the quote UNSMIL refers to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya headed by Bernardino Leon.
Leon seems to be playing new games as he tries to talk with the military forces of each side. Instead of contacting the General Staff or Operations Room of the Tipoli government, Leon went to Misrata to talk with militia commanders there on his own hook. This is bizarre and can only be part of some disruptive process by which he must hope to get agreement from one group which he might not get from another. A statement from the General Operations Room said: No one consulted the Operations Room officials and none of its revolutionary leaders, who are located in western Libya, attended Misrata meeting, so the Room totally rejects and condemns any attempts to add its name on such meetings' lists, which it was not part of.”
The UNSMIL reported on the meeting without ever indicating the context, typical of their style of providing misleading facts. Leon said: “The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has repeatedly emphasized the importance of security and military officials from the conflicting sides engaging in dialogue.” There is nothing about the furore caused by the meeting or about the fact that the meeting had not been approved by the General Staff of the Tripoli forces. Sahmain said that he had made phone calls assuring key UN and US officials that he was ready to nominate army officers to discuss security arrangements. For the Libya Herald which is pro-Tobruk this shows a split within the militia ranks of Tripoli: In a development which once again points up a split between Misrata and the rest of Libya Dawn, Abu Sahmain has written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to complain that Leon’s visit was unauthorised. He said that in phone calls with both the Secretary-General and US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, he had assured both men that he was ready to nominate army officers to discuss security arrangements with UNSMIL.
What happpened is that someone is pressuring Leon to take advantage of a possible split in Tripoli militias to sow even more discord, no doubt on orders from some of his bosses. Note that Sahmain spoke of talking with a US Deputy Secretary of State. Just what role is he supposed to play in all this? Why would he phone him unless he thought he was of some importance in these matters? Shamain notes that Leon's visit might undermine the dialogue and cause UNSMIL to lose trust as a neutral body. I doubt any of the parties involved trust UNSMIL as a neutral body.
These meetings with militia members are part of the security track of negotiations by UNSMIL. Leon realizes that for a political solution to take effect there needs to be a ceasefire and negotiations with representatives of the military forces of each side. The unnoticed elephant in the room is Khalifa Haftar, head of the Tobruk armed forces. He has said time and again that he will not negotiate with nor agree to a ceasefire with the Tripoli militia, whom he calls terrorists. Leon has said that he plans to meet with representatives of the Libyan army and other armed groups from the east in Cairo. He simply gives no indication as to who those representatives are. Note he is meeting in Cairo, not in Tobruk. Last time he went to Tobruk Leon was unable to leave his plane because of demonstrations against him. Stay tuned for another episode of the peace dialogue which was supposed to finish with a deal before Ramadan began last Thursday. I predict that the parties are quite unlikely to reach a deal and will blame each other for their failure. The appended video was from June 3 when time was said to be running out. So Leon just turned the hour glass over.
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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