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article imageOp-Ed: UNSMIL head Kobler holds press conference on Libya situation

By Ken Hanly     Dec 26, 2015 in Politics
Tunis - The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General(SRSG) in Libya, Martin Kobler, held a press conference on the situation in Libya including an extensive question period. A video of the entire event is appended.
There were only a few reporters at the press conference but they were allowed ample time to ask questions. While some of the questions brought up significant issues and Kobler's answers added to our information of what is to happen and UN plans, there were also questions that were not asked that I would have expected.
For some time now I have been watching the UN site for any release of the text of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) that was signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morocco. Surely this is a significant document. The most recent text released of the LPA is from July 2. The UN does post the text of the recent UN Security Council Resolution supporting the LPA and the Government of National Accord. One would think reporters would be anxious to have the signed LPA text released and the UN as well, since this is a key document.
No one asked any questions about the process leading up to the signing of the LPA in Skhirat. The two parliaments were bypassed. All.of a sudden their approval was no longer required and the LPA was signed by members of the House of Representatives(HoR) and General National Congress(GNC) who had no authorization to do so. There are plenty of critical articles on the issue. Reporters present must have known about these critiques. Why did they ask nothing about it? Were they told the parameters within which questions would be asked?
There is also a parallel Libya-Libya dialogue being carried on by the head of the GNC and of the HoR. No mention of this or questions about it that I noticed. Kobler did make it clear that the door is "wide open" for those who so far have rejected the agreement. No doubt they are being offered all sort of carrots. Kobler mentioned aid for municipalities. Militia groups will be offered jobs in the armed forces. Kobler does not mention sticks but they are clearly there as in the UN resolution: Confirms that those individuals and entities engaging in or providing
support for acts that threaten the peace, stability or security of Libya, or that
obstruct or undermine the successful completion of the political transition to a
stable, sccure and prosperous Libya under a Government of National Accord, must
be held strictly accountable, and in this regard, recalls the travel ban and asset
freeze measures reaffirmed in paragraph 11 of resolution 2213 (2015);
There has been no dialogue since Kobler took over. He insisted there be no change to the final draft LPA of his predecessor Bernardino Leon, nor any changes to the names he suggested for the Government of National Accord(GNA). The door has long been closed on any dialogue, it is open only for joining in support. No doubt the parallel Libya-Libya dialogue participants could be subject to sanctions along with anyone else who works to prevent the GNA from going ahead. Dialogue is now replaced by carrots and sticks.
There was one question about Khalifa Haftar — at 9:52 on the video — but it was phrased so Kobler could answer it in a way that ignored one of the most important aspects of the situation. Kobler was asked what the status of Haftar would be when the GNA came into effect. Kobler said it depended upon the GNA. Eventually yes, but immediately upon coming into force, the GNA senior officials take on the role of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army and the duties that Haftar now has. Here is the section of the LPA from July 2: 2. Terms of Reference of the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers:
a. Assume the functions of the Supreme Commander of the Libyan army
The question on Haftar was combined with another question about whether Kobler would commit not to take a high-paying job in some country such as the UAE that had an interest in the negotiations as Kobler's predecessor Bernardino Leon had done. A pointless question that Kobler had no trouble responding to. Even if he eventually does so, he and the UN will probably claim there is no conflict of interest, just as in the Leon situation. The UN has never replied yet to the GNC that demanded an explanation of the Leon affair. If the questioner had cited the section of the LPA that gives senior officials of the GNA the functions of commander-in-chief of the LNA and then asked Kobler if Haftar had accepted this, it would have put Kobler more on the spot, although he could just respond that he did not know. It would be significant that he not know something as crucial to the process as this.
Kobler makes it clear that he wants the GNA to meet in Tripoli. He clarified some of the reasons why it would be good to have it meet there. Headquarters of key institutions such as the Libyan Central Bank, and National Company and others are in Tripoli. However, it remains to be seen whether his assistant will be able to arrange security arrangements adequate to hold meetings in Tripoli. Some militia have signed on or pledged neutrality but Misrata elders and others support the rival Libya-Libya dialogue. More significantly, the president of the GNC and the prime minister of the GNC continue their opposition to the LPA. GNC president Nur Sahmain said that he was in no position to accept dictations. Prime Minister Al-Ghawiel at Independence celebrations called the GNA "the trusteeship government."
Even more significant still are the statements of the military forces associated with the GNC: During the celebration, the military brigades of the General Staff of the GNC refused to deal with Sirraj government, saying imposing it through a foreign dictation would only lead to more violence and instability.
The brigades vowed their support for the GNC and HoR initiatives to solve the crisis and select a national government that meet the aspirations of all Libyans.
Commander of the National Mobil Force, Said Gojeel said he would only follow orders of the GNC General Staff.
A question was asked about who would provide security for the GNA. Kobler said that it would be Libyans rather than foreigners, although he did admit that Italian trainers might come to help train Libyans. Kobler said that in the first instance it would be the Libya regular police and army. Presumably regular Libyan police and army would mean those from the internationally-recognized Al-Thinni, House of Representatives based in Tobruk at present. They are commanded by Haftar. If they come to Tripoli to defend the GNA, that is just asking for trouble.No one asked significant follow-up questions, so Kobler was let off without any great challenges.
Kobler confirmed that the HoR must give a vote of confidence in the GNA before it becomes operative. He has yet to announce a date for this to happen or the location. I presume he would like it to be held in Tripoli. If so he will need to provide good security as there are many in Tripoli who oppose many members of the HoR. This meeting could be quite dramatic.
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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