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article imageOp-Ed: Rome meeting backs LPA but how will security be provided?

By Ken Hanly     Dec 13, 2015 in Politics
Rome - Foreign ministers from 17 countries and four international organizations wrapped up a meeting today in Rome with a statement supporting the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement(LPA), which also sets up a Government of National Accord(GNA).
John Kerry was a co-chair of the meeting along with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni. All the participants expressed their willingness to cooperate with the GNA, which has yet to be formed or even agreed to. Someone or other, it is not yet clear who, is supposed to sign the LPA as of December 16. So far over several months neither parliament has signed the deal. All along, the UN has acted as if there were no question of the GNA coming into being. The senior officials named by the UN as part of the GNA have had talks with international officials from various countries and there have been several meetings to discuss mechanisms for delivering aid to the GNA. The fact that neither of the two rival governments have approved of the GNA is neither here nor there. The UN is going ahead regardless. The Tunis meeting of dialogue members, no doubt chosen because they approve the LPA, gave the appropriate veneer of legitimacy to the UN-sponsored LPA by agreeing to it and setting a date for signing it. This was followed by another stage of legitimizing the process when Kobler got the support of the UN Security Council. Today we have the final blessing by a huge gathering of international officials in Rome.
There is extensive coverage of the meeting by the BBC and the Guardian as well as VOA.among many others.
The BBC reports: "US Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected Libya's rival governments to sign a UN-backed agreement on Wednesday to form a unity government." Amazing that Kerry should say this. Neither the GNC nor the HoR have yet approved the LPA and there is no sign at all that Kobler intends to get their signature. The GNC has rejected the whole process going back to the Tunis meeting. The BBC report also says: Delegates from the two opposing administrations were at the talks in Rome, along with members from Western and Middle Eastern countries and the UN. It is not clear that these are "delegates" in the sense they were chosen by the rival governments. The presidents of both the rival governments support the alternative to the UN plan, the Libya-Libya agreement. The BBC continues with a statement which is an outright falsehood:
The rival governments agreed at talks in Tunis two days ago to sign the UN-backed political agreement on Wednesday, and Mr Kerry said he expected that to go ahead.
This is astonishing. What happened at Tunis was that Kobler gathered together select members of the Libya dialogue, including some from both the HoR and the GNC. That group approved the LPA. Neither government did so and there has been no meeting to vote on the issue.
Many of the reports on the Rome meeting consist of statements by select officials about their support of the LPA and the threat of the Islamic State in Libya, which makes a speedy setting up of the GNA imperative. There are a few who bring up very troubling issues. Matt Toaldo, a policy expert at the European Council of Foreign Relations in London, said it was not known whether the two parliaments as a whole will go along with the deal. He also wondered whether the new government would be able to sit in Tripoli because there might not be any security. As I see it, the UN is going ahead whether the two parliaments go along or not. There is no mention by Kobler that either parliament needs to sign. The GNC has rejected the UN meeting in Tunis and warned the UN that Al-Makzhoum the GNC member who signed the LPA was not authorized to do so or to announce the agreement, and was not even a member of their negotiating committee. He is not authorized to sign on Wednesday.
Emma Bonino, a former Foreign Minister of Italy, and Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the president and CEO of International Crisis Group, the independent conflict-prevention organization, also note the head of the GNA will be Faez Serraj, a little-known politician prior to his nomination by the UN to head the GNA. In fact his name was not suggested by the HoR. The GNC did not submit any names. The two suggest security conditions will prevent the GNA meeting in Tripoli. Actually it is not clear the GNA could meet anywhere in Libya under control of the forces of the GNC or the HoR since both the Libya Dawn militia and General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the HoR Libya National Army, reject the LPA. Haftar considers the forces of the rival GNC Islamist terrorists and refuses to negotiate with them or agree to a ceasefire. It is not clear who if anyone will pay the least attention to the ceasefire call from the Rome meeting. Haftar wll agree to it but on condition that he continue with the war against Islamic terrorism. He will go on with his Operation Dignity meant to clear Libya of Islamists that he started back in May 2014.
The two authors suggest any attempt to locate the GNA in Tripoli could result in faction-fighting in Tripoli for control of the capital. They also point out the GNA might have little influence in the east, where there is significant opposition to the UN deal and that the GNA could fuel secessionist settlement there. It is General Khalifa Haftar and allies in the east who represent the significant opposition to the GNA.
The previous UN envoy, Leon, said several times that any LPA is unenforceable without a parallel military agreement. Leon had no success in his own attempts to progress on this front. All he did was take advantage of a split in the GNC-linked militias and get some of them to sign on to the LPA. Since the Tunis meeting, the GNC has clearly denounced what has happened and disassociated itself from the UN process. From the HoR side there has been virtual silence even though the president of the HoR has so far opposed the LPA and supported the rival Libya-Libya plan. There are no reports as to what Haftar thinks of what is happening, even though he rejects the LPA. Meanwhile countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and the UAE all support the LPA now but they also support Haftar. These two positions are inconsistent. Perhaps there are deals being made behind the scenes we know nothing about. There may be some arrangement being made with Haftar that has prevented him from acting so far to disrupt the UN push for the LPA or even speak out against it. As events unfold what is actually happening may become clearer. It seems difficult to believe that the UN and international community would go ahead without some idea as to what the security situation would be for their new government.
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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