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Op-Ed: Negotiators for rival Libyan governments may meet in New York

The Herald noted Bernardino Leon said last week that he hoped the final draft of the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) could be initialled by negotiators for the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government based in Tobruk and the rival General National Congress(GNC) government based in Tripoli, at a UN General Assembly meeting in New York. However, UN officials told the Herald earlier that it was not certain the meeting would take place.

However, according to the Herald, a western diplomat involved in the process said that there would be a meeting on Thursday to approve the definitive text of the plan that has just recently been distributed. The two rival legislatures were to have discussed the agreement last week. This has not happened and it is unlikely that either legislature can approve the agreement before the negotiators attended any meeting in New York. The diplomat also maintained that at the Thursday meeting the negotiators would name the prime minister of the Government of National Accord(GNA), as well as the two deputy prime ministers. On Friday, there would be a ceremony attended by the Secretary General of the UN and a number of foreign ministers to in effect give the UN’s blessing to the LPA.

Another western diplomat said this scenario was highly unlikely, claiming that it was more likely that the members of the GNA government would be chosen when negotiators reconvene in Skhirat Morocco where the dialogue process has been taking place of late. He said this could happen this Sunday. Originally, the meetings were to take place early this week. Bernardino Leon, the UN special envoy to Libya, who has been arranging the meetings, has issued no press release as yet about the continuation of the dialogue process. It there are to be meetings Thursday and Friday, one would think that he would already have issued a press release about this.

The HoR has agreed to send delegates back to the dialogue even though it had earlier rejected the final LPA because it contained amendments requested by the GNC negotiators. A spokesperson for the HoR said when it made the decision it had not even seen the definitive text of the draft. Someone must have exerted considerable pressure on the HoR to have this happen. The delegates had been called back to Tobruk when the HoR had rejected the earlier draft. It is unclear what is going on, except that one can be sure Leon and the foreign interests that are pressuring him for a deal are busy manipulating what is happening behind the scenes. Neither parliament appears anxious to actually approve the final draft of the LPA. The HoR president, Ageela Gwaider, has suggested that the dialogue could extend beyond October 20 when the mandate of the HoR expires and the GNA government is supposed to take over.

The Herald report also mentions GNC negotiators would also be at the New York meeting. The Libya Herald is pro-HoR. The rival pro-GNC Libya Observer makes no mention of the meeting. Many recent articles in the Observer are quite critical of the dialogue process and even the final draft. It is not clear the LPA could pass either legislature. Even if it did, the LPA is rejected by Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the armed forces of the HoR government. Haftar considers the armed forces of the GNC government Islamist terrorists and will neither talk to them nor agree to a ceasefire with them. Indeed, he launched an offensive in Benghazi just as the final agreement was being negotiated. The UN condemned the offensive and the GNC threatened to withdraw from the dialogue until Haftar stopped an offensive in Benghazi and in the south. There is no parallel military dialogue taking place. Leon himself has remarked several times that a political agreement without a parallel military agreement is unenforceable. The next few days should give us a better picture of what is happening.

A recent UN Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL) press report does note that some activity is taking place. It says that Leon was not present at the meeting of the Human Rights Council meeting “due to the critical phase reached by the political negotiations”. The release also said: UNSMIL is redoubling its efforts to encourage the Libyan parties to endorse without delay the full text of the Political Agreement put to them for final consideration. The Agreement sets out transitional institutional arrangements, centred on a Government of National Accord, where decisions would require the consensus of the Prime Minister and two deputies. The legislative function would be performed by the House of Representatives elected in June 2014, and a newly established consultative State Council would work closely with the House on legislative and other matters. These institutions are to govern Libya pending the adoption of a new Constitution. There is nothing about any New York meeting. There is no report of either of the two parliaments actually meeting to approve or disapprove of the LPA. Perhaps, Leon thinks that having the delegates from the two governments initial an agreement will force the two parliaments to take action.

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A new press release has just been issued by UNSMIL. It sheds no light on any possible meeting in New York. If there were to be such a meeting you would think Leon would mention it. The release relates to Leon meeting with the president of the HoR: New York, 29 September 2015 – The Secretary-General met today with H.E. Mr. Agila Saleh Essa Gwaider, President of the House of Representatives of Libya. They discussed the political and security developments in Libya. The Secretary-General stressed the urgent need for progress in the political dialogue and underlined the expectations of the international community to see the return of peace and stability to Libya. He reiterated his commitment to support the Libyan democratic transition. It could very well be that Leon laid down the law to Gwaider and persuaded him to send delegates back to the dialogue. Who knows what threats or promises Leon made? There will be no press release about those.

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