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article imageOp-Ed: UN envoy in Cairo talks as 12 now dead in Benghazi shelling

By Ken Hanly     Oct 25, 2015 in World
Benghazi - The death toll from the shelling of a protest rally against the UN-brokered Libya Political Agreement(LPA) has now risen to 12 people dead and 39 wounded according to local medics.
Reports of casualties have varied: On their Facebook pages, the Benghazi Medical Centre announced eight dead, while the city’s Al-Jalaa hospital announced four had died. Medics initially said five people were killed.
No one has taken responsibility for the shelling. Many locals blame it on Islamic State fighters who control some parts of Benghazi. The rival GNC government has blamed the incident on the commander of the HoR armed forces Khalifa Haftar and his Operation Dignity meant to drive Islamists out of Libya including the militia associated with the GNC. This is a very unlikely and very provocative claim. Haftar also rejects the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) and the associated Government of National Accord(GNA). It is improbable that he would attack a group of protesters, most of whom are probably his own supporters. However, the attack may have the effect of further damaging the prospects for a peace deal. In response to the attack, many municipalities in the areas controlled by the internationally recognized House of Representatives(HoR) have withdrawn from the dialogue process altogether. The UN Special Envoy to Libya has said he will start dialogue talks again this Tuesday. Neither of the two rival governments have yet approved Leon's final draft of the Libya Political Agreement(LPA).
The UN Support Mission in Libya(UNSML) condemned the attack and defended the right of Libyans to express their opinion but added that the best way to counter the rise of the Islamic State in Libya and migrant smuggling was to form a unity government, a position not shared by the protesters. Most of them probably share the view of Haftar that the way forward is to recover territory from the GNC and its militias, through the military Operation Dignity. Last month, the UN condemned Haftar's offensive in Benghazi called Operation Doom claiming that it sabotaged the peace process. The HoR in turn condemned the UN for not supporting Haftar's operations against terrorism.The UN has constantly called for Haftar to cease military operations except against the Islamic State. Some operations in Benghazi are against IS, but other areas are ruled by a Shura Council allied with the GNC. For Haftar, all Islamist opponents are terrorists.
Bernardino Leon, the UN Special Envoy to Libya, is holding meetings in Cairo on Sunday and Monday on the Libyan situation, especially the formation of the unity Government of National Accord. Leon will meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and also the Arab League General Secretary Nabil El-Araby. Both Egypt and the Arab League have expressed support for Haftar. While Egypt said at a high-level meeting in New York that it was not acceptable to delay signing the final political agreement, it has done nothing to disown Haftar or his operations while joining in with the EU, U.S. and others in supporting the LPA — at least at the rhetorical level. Leon is probably trying to urge Egypt and other supporters of Haftar to put pressure on him to approve the deal and support it in the HoR. Leon probably thinks that Haftar is preventing a vote on the LPA because it would pass. This may be so but I think it may be that there is no vote held because the HoR does not want to be first to formally reject the deal. They have already rejected it in a statement but with no vote. If the HoR rejected the deal formally the chief officials could very well be subject to sanctions or lose the support of the international community. There should be significant developments of some sort this week.
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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