Since last fall, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL). guided by their Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, has been attempting to broker a deal between the two governments that would see the formation of a unity government, or Government of National Accord as it is now called. A fourth draft of an agreement was received positively by the GNC. However, the Tobruk government rejected it and at first was going to exit the talks. No doubt after external pressure, it passed amendments to the draft that reduced the power of the GNC government to virtually nil. While not all of the Tobruk amendments were included in a fifth draft,or revised fourth draft, enough were included to remove any powers given to the GNC in the original fourth draft.
When the groups convened to sign the final draft, the GNC group was confronted with a document that had been amended without any consultation or agreement. At the same time, their own amendments were ignored. The GNC representatives left the talks on July 8. They indicated that they would return only if their amendments were to be seriously discussed. In a recent article I trace the process in detail and indicated that in my view there appeared to be a concerted effort to ensure that the draft prepared would not be signed by the GNC. Whether this was planned or not this is what has happened as described in another recent article. The aim seems to be not to forge a peace agreement between the two parties but to isolate the Tripoli government and its militia the Libya Dawn who also reject the draft. The whole idea that there could be a political solution with one of two rival governments not signing on strikes me as absurd. However, if the aim is to isolate one government and provide international support for the Tobruk government the strategy makes sense. Nothing is regarded as absurd when the power brokers desire it.
Bernardino Leon called the signing of the draft “an important step for Libya.” This may be because it signals that the international community is going to support the Tobruk government, whose HoR is the sole legitimate legislative authority in the Government of National Accord. The GNC are to be the majority of 90 in a Council of 120 members that has an advisory role in the government. If the GNC does not participate or sign the agreement then it is not clear how that will work out. Indeed, it is not clear how the process will go ahead without either the Tripoli government or its armed forces agreeing to the plan. Some ideas are presented in an op ed in the Libya Herald a pro-Tobruk news outlet. As discussed in another article other analysts see implementation of the peace plan without the GNC or Libya Dawn as unworkable. The agreement that has been signed does not require the GNC group to sign on. Imagine, an agreement supposed to solve a conflict between two rival governments that does not require both of the parties to sign the agreement.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon and the EU representative for foreign affairs Federica Mogherini both have issued statements praising the signing of the draft. They do not explain why signing an agreement in which one main party is not a signatory, and which they reject, is to be praised as progress. I am waiting for reporters to ask this question. The U.S. State Department joined the chorus in praising the agreement:
State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a news briefing July 13 that a United Nations-brokered deal reached in Morocco offers Libya “the best path forward to peace and stability.” (State Department/Twitter) Ahmed al -Jarwan, president of the Arab Parliament, said the signing of the draft agreement was an important step towards ending the conflict and restoration of peace and security in Libya. None of these statements make any sense when one party to the conflict is left out and still has its loyal armed militia and functioning government. All is not sweetness and light if you read accounts from the other side. It is quite unlikely you will because search engines do not usually pick up articles from sources such as the Libya Observer, a pro-Tripoli outlet.
Here is an example of their reporting:
Revolutionaries from western Libya, Gharyan revolutionaries, and Misrata revolutionary brigades have each issued a statement to reject the unilateral initializing of the UNSMIL draft in Skhirat, Morocco. They all reiterated their support for the General National Congress as the only legitimate representative of Libya, refusing as well the ex-regime followers’ attempts to launch a coup against 17 February revolution and calling for unity in the face of all plotters. In the south, Sabha municipality issued a statement rejecting the signing of the draft by one of its members claiming that the member did not represent the municipality. Leon seems to have gone searching for mayors and other local officials who would sign on to the draft.
While Leon claims the door is still open for the GNC to return to the dialogue this appears to be mainly to sign the draft and then work on details. Leon seems to have not responded to the demand to consider their amendments as he had done with the Tobruk government previously. Far from being a step forward, the signing of the draft is a recipe for continued civil war. Leon has clearly tried to divide those in support of the Tripoli government. He met with commanders of militia in Misrata without informing or getting permission from the general staff. He insists that there is a parallel military dialogue with the forces of the rival governments. He claimed weeks ago that he would meet with Tobruk forces representatives in Cairo. He has not reported back nor did he ever mention with whom he was meeting. The head of the Tobruk forces Khalifa Haftar has said repeatedly that he would never agree to a cease fire with the Tripoli militia nor would he negotiate with them since he considers them terrorists. Now that the GNC and their militia are out of the deal perhaps Haftar can continue with his Operation Dignity that he began in May 2014, and complete his military solution to the divided country. However, now he will have broader international support, not just that of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There is even a UN Security Council resolution supporting the draft. Leon has not given us a clue as to how he intends to go forward from this point.