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Op-Ed: GNC Libyan government cuts short UN envoy’s news conference

The LPA was signed in Skhirat, Morocco on December 17 and is supported by the UN Security Council and a large group of foreign ministers who met later in Rome. The signers were members of the Libyan political dialogue, including members of both rival parliaments. The dialogue was meant to reach agreement on a political solution to the divided governments and formation of a unity government. No agreement was ever approved by either parliament. You have an agreement pushed by the UN with the support of the UN Security Council and many foreign governments. However, so far the UN has failed to create the security conditions to enforce the agreement.. The recent meeting between Kobler and Sahmain shows this.

Whatever the legal status of the GNC government, it has control over a wide area in western Libya including most of Tripoli and Mitiga airport. The UN resolution supporting the LPA demands parties in Libya give the UN and its workers free access to all areas and cooperate in setting up the GNA government. After negotiating an agreement of which the GNC was not a part, the UN now demands free access and cooperation in areas the GNC control without even asking permission. After first being denied landing rights at Mitiga, the UN at least had enough sense to arrange for them with the GNC. However, after his meeting with Sahmain, Kobler refused to have a joint press conference. Instead he arranged for a conference at the airport without permission and without Sahmain. The GNC had demanded changes to the LPA that Kobler refuses to consider. As a result, the GNC rejects the LPA.

As shown on the appended video, Kobler’s conference was cut short when the GNC Foreign Media Department head Jamal Zubia said: “When you want to hold a press conference you have to take permission from the Foreign Media Department because we are responsible. By law, all the people (journalists/media) who are here, I must cancel their accreditation because this is the law.” The Libya Herald reports Kobler apologized and asked that the reporters present not have their accreditation cancelled.

Many reports speak of Kobler being humiliated. None see any humiliation of GNC president Sahmain, in Kobler’s refusal to hold a joint press conference with him after the meeting or Kobler’s deliberate refusal to get permission for a press conference from his hosts.

It is not clear what is happening with respect to the other parliament, the HoR, which has so far failed to vote support for the LPA. The two recent UN press reports make no mention of the issue. In spite of claims by the UN and others that a majority support the LPA and the Government of National Accord, two recent meetings of the HoR have failed to reach a quorum even though the president of the HoR, Ageela Salah, now supports the LPA reportedly: Ageela Salah’s opposition and political position became weak once his support base, the tribes and council leaders of the eastern region announced, be it conditional, their support for the Skhirat agreement in a meeting with him on 26th December. This came after Hafter had already given his support to Skhirat at his meeting in Marj with Kobler at an earlier meeting on 16th December. I am not at all sure that Haftar supports the LPA. What has happened is that he is not speaking out against it. Almost all of the HoR support is with conditions, including that Haftar remain as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army. Throughout all this Haftar has remained quiet. Now there is a report in the Libya Observer that Haftar will remain as commander in chief of the LNA: Head of Defense Committee in Tobruk Parliament Ali Al-Tikbali, says Khalifa Haftar would be Defense Minister and General Commander of Libyan Army in Fayaz Sirraj government I would take this report with a grain of salt. Sirraj is the designated prime minister of the new GNA. The present LPA gives the function of commander in chief of the LNA to the Presidential Council of the GNA not Haftar. If Haftar remains as head of the LPA, many of the GNC members who agree to the LPA and GNA will be outraged. The GNC militias will not stand for this. This would entail a continuation of the civil war with the UN and international community supporting CIA-linked Haftar. What is happening may become clearer on Monday when the HoR may meet to approve the LPA and GNA.

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