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article imageOp-Ed: No word on UN-sponsored talks between rival Libyan militaries

By Ken Hanly     Apr 25, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - There has been a continual three ring circus of peace talks and dialogue, sponsored by the UN, among three sets of Libyan groups, the most significant being those involving Libya's two rival governments.
On the 19th of April, the UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, announced that the two rivals were close to reaching agreement saying at the end of talks in Morocco: "I can tell you that we have now a draft which looks like something very close to a final agreement, Eighty percent of the text in this draft is, let me put it this way, is something that the parties can agree." The factions were to return to Libya for consultations and return to Morocco this coming week to finalize the agreement. There has been no reporting that I can find at all on the reactions of the rival governments. Complete silence.
Leon finally noted that the agreement would mean nothing without the agreement of the respective military and militia groups associated with the rival governments. Of course, the Islamic State will not be part of this process since it rejects and is in clashes with both governments. Other jihadist groups, such as Ansar al-Sharia, may not be part of the process either. Leon said on April 19th that preparations were under way for armed groups to hold direct talks. Complete silence during the week when the preparations were to made. None of the statements from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya make any reference to these talks. The latest report continues the long string of items condemning the violence in Libya. The UN Support Mission in Libya's(UNSMIL) warnings about violence are toothless and Khalifa Haftar, commander of the forces of the internationally-recognized Tobruk government, regularly ignores them with complete impunity. The most recent UNSMIL report condemns the attack on the Spanish Embassy in Tripoli probably by Islamic State jihadists. At the end, the press release says: UNSMIL urges the Libyans to press ahead with their efforts to reach a political agreement to restore peace and stability, as well as strengthen the State institutions to combat terrorism. This is the UN's last word on the Libyan situation at least on their official website. Notice the weird phrase " the State institutions". They can't say what state or both states since neither of the two rival governments recognize the other. They have never even talked directly together yet.There are often examples of this linguistic deformation of the English language to make a phrase acceptable to both sides to be found in UN reports on Libya. The phrase will be interpreted differently by each government. For the Tobruk government it means getting more arms and pursuing the fight against the militia of the rival Tripoli government as well as the Islamic State.
Khalifa Haftar, CIA-linked commander of the Tobruk government forces, said that he would not object to an operation in LIbya like that being carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. Of course this would involve bombing his own people a horrible happening when done by Gadaffi to put down a rebellion but it would be OK for Haftar who after all is fighting Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood with the firm support of Egyptian president el-Sisi. He is still intent on retaking Tripoli even as the UN talks have demanded a cease fire and negotiation of a unity government. While the UN claims that only a political solution is possible in the situation, Haftar claims there can be a military solution through his efforts. He criticized the UN sanctions on importing arms to Libya. Haftar need not worry, Egypt has already received a windfall of $1.3 billion in arms from the US and has an arms deal with Russia as well. He can spare some of that weaponry to help out his buddy in Libya, Haftar. Egypt is already thought to have carried out bombing raids for Haftar and allowed planes from the UAE that bombed Tripoli to use Egyptian bases. The UN does nothing about Haftar continually thumbing his nose at them but the UN can act: The UN Security Council asked the Sanctions Committee (established in 2011) to consider requests for arms and equipment for use by the Libyan Government, (although it does not refer to which of the two current governments this request is designed to support). It refers to "use by official Armed Forces to combat ISIL and similar organisations". Of course the reference is to the internationally recognized government not the Tripoli government and the official forces are those under the control of Haftar.
The US and the EU have continually expressed their support for dialogue and formation of a unity government. There is not one word from them about the lack of progress in having Haftar meet up with Libya Dawn the main militia associated with the Tripoli. Why is this? Haftar has made it clear multiple times he would not agree to a ceasefire with the militia. Is it because the whole peace process is not really taken seriously but is simply meant as a side show to indicate that these countries are for dialogue and a political solution rather than the type of military action that Haftar wants? So far they have done nothing to reign him in and it seems less and less likely that they will or even can. However, if they do not, no political solution is possible unless the Tripoli government decides to surrender. The only slight ray of hope is that locally cease fires have been arranged.
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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