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article imageOp-Ed: UN refuses to condemn Haftar and support counter-attacks in Libya

By Ken Hanly     Sep 12, 2016 in World
Tripoli - In response to the seizure of four oil ports in the oil crescent by the Libyan National Army commanded by General Khalifa Haftar, Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) has issued several statements.
After the attacks began Kobler tweeted: " worried about reported fighting in the oil crescent. will add to division and further restricting oil exports. oil belongs to ALL libyans." Notice that he does not mention Hafter and the Libyan National Army(LNA) as attacking and seizing the oil ports nor mention that those holding the port are the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) who have an agreement with the UN-backed Government of National Accord to open up the ports to export. Haftar does not recognize the GNA nor its national oil company (NOC) based in Tripoli. While many may be happy to see the deal with Ibrahim Jodhran fail since they consider him a renegade who has robbed Libya of millions if not billions in oil revenue, the situation is now that the GNA lacks any agreement at all and must bargain with Haftar.
After the LNA had cemented control over four oil crescent ports, Brega, Ras Lanuf, Es Sidra, and Zuwetina, Kobler issued a news release on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) website. His statement calls for immediate cessation of hostilities in the oil crescent, respect for the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and recognition of the Presidency Council and GNA as the sole executive authority in Libya. Haftar could very well reply that Kobler and the UN show no respect for the LPA since without a formal vote of confidence by the HoR they activated the GNA and still prate on about its legitimacy after the defeat of a vote of confidence in the HoR on August 22. They are supposed to have presented a new cabinet to the HoR over a week ago but have not done so and show no signs of being near ready to present a new slate. Kobler knows that Haftar and the HoR do not recognize the GNA and PC as legitimate, demanding that it be regarded as such will make no difference. The UN has constantly ignored Haftar's continual and successful attempts to derail the UN process. He is even stronger now. Why should he pay the least attention? A demand that has no force to back it up is worse than useless, since it reveals the weakness of those making the demand.
The demand that hostilities cease is a huge plus for Haftar. After all he has control of the ports. If the PFG and the GNA counter-attack, Haftar can complain that the GNA and PFG are acting contrary to what the UN demands. If Kobler really supported the GNA he would support their call for the defense minister to mount a counter-attack. He would also support the counter offensive announced by the PFG. A tweet says: "news#PFG regained control of #Sidra, fighting to retake #RasLanuf is ongoing w/ #JEM's militias." This remains to be verified. The GNA called on forces to protect the ports against "flagrant aggression" by the rival HoR administration.
Another tweet also announced counter attacks by the PFG: "PFG launches military ops, code-name: Dispersing Dellusion, to regain control of Oil Crescent Terminals. #Libya". Kobler says nothing about taking measures against Haftar and retaking the ports. Equally silent on the matter are the many powerful players who constantly serve as cheerleaders for the GNA, the EU and the US. They have not yet decided how to react. They also seem to fear any confrontation with Haftar. This can only encourage Haftar to demand more in any accommodation with the UN, EU and U.S.
Kobler notes that the attacks threaten stability and lead to greater division of the country. However he does not call the attacks an aggression by the LNA under Haftar. The attacks further restrict oil exports and add to people's suffering. So why does Kobler not suggest taking the ports under GNA control as before and not simply acquiescing in Haftars blatant seizure of the ports?
Kobler concludes: “I urge all parties to avoid any damage to the oil facilities. Natural resources belong to all Libyans and preserving oil infrastructure is in the national interest. He joins the Presidency Council’s calls for a comprehensive national consensus and expresses his support for consultations that would lead to the formation of a new Government of National Accord. No reference to the LPA nor the demand of the HoR that the PC come up with a new cabinet to be formally approved by the HoR as required by the LPA. No reference to the GNA demand that the ports be defended by force. There is division within the PC itself. It remains to be seen if there is any truth to the reports of a counter-attack. The media is agonizingly slow in reacting to events in Libya. Kobler is obviously desperate for a deal with Haftar even as Hafter positions himself to make greater and greater demands. However, Haftar's idea may simply be to see the GNA self-destruct and he will emerge as the champion fighter against terrorism and the strong man who is the only viable alternative. The west and other power brokers will come to accept him just as they accept el-Sisi in Egypt.
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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