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article imageOp-Ed: Libya's neighbors warn competing factions against military action

By Ken Hanly     Jan 21, 2017 in World
Meeting in Cairo on Saturday representatives from all of Libya's neighbors including Libya itself plus Tunisia, Niger, Chad, Algeria, Sudan, and Egypt warned Libya's factions not to settle their differences through military force.
Egypt announced that efforts were underway to bring leaders together to chart a joint vision for Libya. The UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, also attended.
A final statement from the meeting said: “A comprehensive political dialogue between all Libya parties is the only way out of this crisis.” The group decisively rejected a military solution. There have been some clashes between groups associated with the eastern Libyan National Army(LNA) of Khalifa Haftar associated with the government of the House of Representatives and others associated with Misrata forces loyal to the rival UN-brokered Government of National Accord.
The statement praised those who defeated the Islamic State(IS) in Sirte, mostly brigades from Misrata but also those from the LNA who were fighting militants in Benghazi. However, they expressed concern that they were still remnants of the IS present elsewhere in Libya. Recently US airstrikes claim to have killed 80 IS fighters at 2 camps near Sirte. The costly mission by two B-2 stealth bombers from the US was President Obama's last show of force in Libya. The attack was coordinated with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) The US had carried out air strikes, Operation Odyssey Lightning, from August 1st last year until the liberation of Sirte on December 19th last year.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said that plans were underway to have a meeting of leaders of the GNA, the House of Representatives (HoR) and Khalifa Haftar commander of the LNA . This is extraordinary in that these are described as Libya's main factions. Two of them are rival governments but Haftar is a commander appointed by the HoR. How does he become a third faction? He actually seems to have considerable control over the HoR. The HoR will be unwilling to vote confidence in the GNA unless Haftar is satisfied with the terms. In particular he will not allow himself to be replaced as commander in chief of the LNA. The Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) as it exists now has sections that give the Presidency Council(PC) of the GNA the role of commander in chief. The PC has already claimed that role even though the HoR has not voted confidence in the GNA. Neither Haftar nor the rival HoR government recognize the legitimacy of the GNA.
Last August 22, the HoR voted against accepting the GNA. There was supposed to be a new cabinet presented within ten days. Months have passed and there is still no word about what is to happen. The presently planned meeting remains vague and no mention is even made of the need to have a vote of confidence in the GNA and to amend the constitutional declaration of 2011 as is required by the LPA. Shukri said that the meeting was planned to "build trust, understanding, and search for a joint vision". It seems that in all the many months since August 22, nothing has been worked out to solve the crisis. The LPA which has always been touted as the only way forward is not even mentioned.
Why this meeting would be held in Egypt is hard to fathom. Egypt is a strong supporter of Haftar and the HoR rather than the UN-backed GNA. Shukri in fact called for the ban on arms sales to Libya to be lifted. He said the LNA was a legitimate entity: “It’s inappropriate for this ban to stand and we continue to demand that it be rescinded.” However, most western countries and a UN resolution claim that the UN-backed GNA is the sole legitimate Libyan government and although the UN is willing to allow some exemptions from the arms ban it would not be to the LNA which does not recognize the GNA. Perhaps with the new Trump administration in the US and with Russian support for Haftar, we will see him gain even more strength. The GNA appears to be losing more and more credibility as it cannot provide for basic needs in the areas that it governs and is challenged not only by Haftar but by an ongoing coup attempt by members of the former Salvation Government which has taken over the Rixos Hotel headquarters of the GNA's High Council of State. While support has come for the GNA in terms of the Italian embassy reopening, it remains to be seen if it can continue as it is for much longer.
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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