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article imageOp-Ed: Rivals from competing Libyan governments meet in Rome

By Ken Hanly     Apr 24, 2017 in Politics
Rome - Ageelah Saleh, president of the House of Representatives (HoR) based in the east in Tobruk, and Abdulrahman Sewehli head of the State Council of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) met in Rome to work on resolving the Libyan crisis.
A statement from the State Council claimed that "there was an atmosphere of friendliness and openness" during the meeting.
The council statement also said that there would have to be more talks between the two sides to bring about reconciliation. The HoR and the associated government in the east is a rival to the GNA in the west. The HoR has refused to far to vote confidence in the Government of National Accord based in Tripoli as required by the Libya Political Agreement. The GNA is recognized by the UN and many governments as the sole legitimate government of Libya. The GNA was last rejected by the HoR on August 22nd last year. At the time, ten days was allowed for a new cabinet to be presented. There has been virtually no progress since then towards that end.
The HoR is now demanding changes be made to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) before it will vote confidence in the GNA. According to the Libya Herald, the changes can be made only through a joint team from the HoR and the State Council and it sees the meeting between the two as a potential breakthrough. The paper also claims that both the HoR and the State Council need to appoint members for their team to join in a dialogue meeting to discuss the changes. One would think that any changes to the LPA would need to be approved by the members of the dialogue who originally signed the agreement. Both Saleh and Sewehli thanked the Italian foreign minister Angelino Afano for sponsoring the meeting.
Later comments on TV from Saleh indicate that the meeting was not meant to deal with Sewehli as an official but as an ordinary Libyan national and a boycotting member of the HoR. Saleh said: "The HCS is not legitimate as it has not been included in the constitutional declaration as per the Libyan Political Agreement." It is not clear why a meeting with an ordinary citizen needs to be arranged through a high Italian official. Saleh also said that the HoR choosing a new dialogue team had zero relevance to the meeting that took place in Rome. Saleh mentioned that he did not attend the session of the HoR in which the team was formed. One wonders, if the meeting that chose the dialogue members was even legitimate since the head of the HoR apparently did not call it and was not there. Saleh said: "I have always been a subject for bitter criticism by my opponents for my clear bias to the military and police institutions." Saleh is a strong supporter of the commander of the HoR forces Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Saleh said that the authority of the Commander in Chief had been given to Haftar and that he had to always be informed about intelligence classified information. But this is true only of Haftar's relation to the HoR government not the GNA. The Presidential Council under terms of the LPA has the function of commander in chief of the armed forces. Saleh further added: "Haftar should have a representative at the Presidential Council and the military must be inclusive of all Libyans." The meeting between the two hardly represents a breakthrough. The Italian government arranged the meeting because the two were important officials in the two competing groups. However, Saleh's statements simply deny that Sewehli represents a legitimate body. The meeting hardly represents an essential beginning of a comprehensive reconciliation process. The situation is as confused and unresolved as ever.
The HoR met earlier and set preconditions to return to the UN-sponsored political dialogue. At a recent meeting in Tobruk 60 HoR members voted in favor of resuming the dialogue if certain conditions were met. President Saleh said that the preconditions must be included in the political agreement. Among the demands are that article 8 that gives the PC the function of Supreme Commander of the Libyan armed forces be deleted. This would pave the way for Field Marshal Haftar to keep that role as Saleh has demanded for some time. This demand has little chance of being accepted by the PC or the State Council,
The HoR has at last announced a new 24 member Political Dialogue Committee after being delayed by divisions within the HoR membership. This group is expected to be part of a renegotiation of the LPA signed in December 2015 in Skhirat Morocco. The chair of the group is Abdulasalam Nasia from Zintan. There are 21 males and 3 females in the committee. The decree forming the committee charges them with abiding by "the national constants" stated in HoR resolution No. 4 for 2017. These national constants are the preconditions set for taking part in the dialogue and as noted earlier include the deletion of section 8 allowing Haftar to remain as commander in chief of the armed forces. It is hard to understand why the dialogue would go ahead when at least one precondition is quite unlikely to be accepted by the PC or State Council. No date has been set for a meeting of the dialogue members. One precondition set by the HoR is that the dialogue take place in Libya.
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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