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article imageOp-Ed: UN-sponsored Libyan GNA gains new allies but with conditions

By Ken Hanly     Dec 28, 2015 in Politics
Tripoli - Opposition to the UN-sponsored Government of National Accord(GNA) appears to be evaporating within the membership of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk.
The GNA is part of the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) signed on December 17 by members of the Libyan political dialogue, a group assembled by the UN to negotiate a political agreement between the two rival Libyan governments. The internationally-recognized government, the House of Representatives (HoR), is located in the east in Tobruk. The rival government is based in the west in Tripoli, the General National Congress (GNC).
While members of both rival governments signed the LPA, none were authorized to do so by their respective parliaments and neither government approved the LPA. In a sense there was no agreement at all but in its place an LPA was imposed on the two rival governments.
The whole process for quite a long time has been staged by the UN, which ever since Martin Kobler took over from Bernardino Leon on November 17, has not involved any dialogue at all, simply attempts to get agreement on the last draft of the LPA sent by Leon to the two legislatures for approval that never came. Kobler has insisted there can be no amendments to the draft, even though both parliaments demanded changes. Long before the December 17 signing, the UN acted as if the members named by Leon were actual officials just waiting for the GNA to come into being. Probably this resulted mostly from international demands for one government that the international community could deal with, and could ask for intervention to fight the Islamic State — soon be Daesh in the world of politically correct nomenclature, as properly vilifying. The GNA still has to be given a vote of confidence by the HoR, the legislative body of the GNA. before its term even begins.
Kobler insists a majority of the HoR support the GNA although this is only "in principle." Kobler long ago, at the final failure of the HoR to pass the LPA, welcomed the declaration by 92 members of the HoR that they supported the HoR in principle. What he did not mention is that as the Libya Herald reported: However, they also effectively said that there could be no changes in the leadership of the Libyan National Army (LNA) (in other words General Khalifa Hafter) and that the names announced by former UN special envoy Bernardino Leon for the proposed presidency council needed modifications. These members will be involved in a vote of confidence on the GNA some time in January. Unless they have changed their position, they will no doubt demand Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. The group also demanded lifting of the ban on arms shipments to Libya, a key Haftar demand as well.
Faiez Serraj, the prime minister designate of the GNA, met with a key group of members of the HoR from Benghazi in Cairo. The three said last October that they would support the GNA only if Hafar remained at his post. The Libya Herald claims it was informed that at this meeting Haftar was not an issue. One might ask why this would be so? Is it because the group changed their position or because there has been some arrangement made with Haftar?
Haftar met with Kobler just before the signing of the LPA on December 17. Haftar said nothing about opposing the LPA, which he has opposed all along. The Kobler report on the meeting lacked any information about the status of Haftar after the signing. The very fact that Haftar has been mum for ages now — when he usually condemns the LPA dialogue as negotiations with terrorists, that is the GNC and its armed Islamist supporters — appears to indicate the situation has changed. This is a person who continually has tried to sabotage the peace process to such a degree that he was named by the EU as being subject to sanctions.
The Herald notes there were similar demands to the Benghazi group made by eastern mayors and elders who had earlier rejected the LPA and GNA. They however, explicitly added the demand that Haftar remain as the head of the Libyan National Army. At a tribal meeting, the president of the HoR, Ageela Saleh, was told that should Haftar remain as head of the LNA, he also had to support the GNA. Saleh had been meeting with the GNC president Nuri Sahmain on a parallel Libya-Libya dialogue that rejected the UN LPA, and was searching for a GNA arrived at by a purely Libya-Libya dialogue. Saleh now appears to have been pressured into accepting the GNA. The Libya Herald reports:
Moreover, at least one news source has gone further and reported that Saleh had given his initial approval to their request for GNA support and has gone as far as to say that he would hand in his resignation as HoR president if that was what was wanted.
Serraj, also met with Egyptian president Abdel el-Sisi, a great admirer and supporter of Haftar. El-Sisi congratulated Serraj on his appointment and promised that Egypt would back his government. El-Sisi would like the UN arms embargo to end so that his friend Haftar can receive more equipment for his Operation Dignity waged against Islamists of all stripes, including the members of the GNC government. Yet the GNA takes away the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army from Haftar and gives it to senior officials of the GNA. UN envoy Kobler refuses to acknowledge what is part of the LPA as it was last released. His answer to a question on Haftar's status after the GNA might as well be a lie since it refuses to acknowledge this key part of the LPA. Perhaps it has been written out of the agreement since the UN has not yet released the text of the LPA as signed at Skhirat on December 17th. Still no sign of the text on the UN website.
Given Haftar's silence, and that the majority of those in the HoR who will vote for the GNA will also demand that Haftar remain in his position, Kobler is going to face a difficult situation. He claims the present LPA and GNA cannot be altered, but it would seem that to get a vote of confidence in the HoR he must at least allow that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the LNA. Anyone associated with the GNC will be outraged at this development and the nascent GNA will be so badly divided it is unlikely to be able to function.
There is tremendous pressure on members of the HoR and GNC who do not support the GNA at present to change their minds. Those who accept from the HoR are guaranteed their positions in the new HoR that is part of the GNA. Even those in the GNC who sign on will probably get positions in the associated State Council that is made up of GNC members. Those who try to sabotage the process could be faced with sanctions. The old parliaments will lose many of their members to the GNA. Once the GNA gains control of the Libyan Central Bank and National Oil Company, there will be no money for salaries. Another powerful incentive is that there are $67 billion in frozen funds from the Gadaffi era that will likely be released to the GNA. Who can resist such a honey pot? Militia who sign on will be integrated into the Libyan National Army with guaranteed paychecks. Kobler has stressed that the UN resolution on the GNA makes it clear that after the GNA gets up and running it will be the only recognized 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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