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Op-Ed: Rival Libyan governments resume peace talks in Morocco

The meeting is taking place nearly three weeks after Leon had provided the two sides with the draft. The Tripoli government was positive from the beginning but suggested an amendment that would give some recognition to the Supreme Court decision back in November that ruled the elections for the rival House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk were unconstitutional and the Tobruk-based parliament should be dissolved. The internationally-recognized government in Tobruk has always rejected the ruling and the international community has paid no attention either. The UN said it was studying the matter after the decision. It has said nothing about it since. The Tripoli amendment will not be acceptable to the HoR representatives. I expect the amendment might be used as a negotiating tool to extract concessions from Tobruk. Samir Ghattas, spokesperson for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said that he hoped that this would be the final session of the unity talks. That same hope was expressed at the last meetings.

The Tobruk government at first simply rejected the fourth draft entirely. No doubt it was pressured by western powers to approve the draft and continue with the talks. The government at first was split upon whether it would continue with the talks but eventually agreed to attend after proposing amendments that would in effect take away any significant political power from the Tripoli government. There is no way the Tripoli government can accept the Tobruk amendments. More details of the amendments and their significance can be found in this article.The HoR would be the sole legislative body and the State Council would be reduced to an advisory role with no power to block legislation if the Tobruk amendments were accepted. The Tripoli representatives would have far less than a majority in the Council even at that. Nevertheless Leon said: “We are getting closer to a solution. Obviously, the fact that all the participants in the dialogue have accepted the fourth draft as a basis for a final solution is extremely encouraging.” Amendments proposed by Tobruk cannot possibly be accepted by Tripoli since they would render the Tripoli government completely impotent. The Tripoli amendment can never be accepted by Tobruk either since Tobruk does not even recognize the legitimacy of the decision. The acceptance of both of the fourth draft as a basis for negotiation does nothing to solve a continuing conflict about the nature of the unity government.

Mattia Toaldo of the European Council on Foreign Relations had a more realistic assessment: “It is as complicated as it has ever been, but now there is a solution that takes into account the complications. Local ceasefires cannot hold for long absent of a national agreement.” It remains to be seen whether there actually is a solution. The ceasefires Toaldo refers to were negotiated between the Tripoli government and various militia in the west with which they have fought. The UN was not involved.

Leon realizes that any political solution is possible only if there is a parallel military solution. He intends to meet with the military forces of each side. However, he met with the Misrata militia without ever clearing the issue with the official military of the Tripoli government. This resulted in a complaint to the UN by the Tripoli government. Leon has yet to meet with the military of the Tobruk government. The head of that military, Khalifa Haftar, has said many times he would never agree to a ceasefire with the Tripoli militias. Leon cannot even go to Tobruk. Last time he went his plane could not land because of protesters. He is to meet representatives of the Libyan military in Cairo. Khalifa Haftar’s name is not even mentioned even though he is the most important person in the armed forces of Tobruk. Haftar thinks that there is a military solution to the problem of a divided government and that is his Operation Dignity that began in May 2014 and continues to this day with the support of the Tobruk government. The UN manages to somehow ignore all these relevant facts. How do you negotiate a ceasefire with someone who refuses to negotiate with the other forces, that is Libya Dawn. He calls them terrorists to be defeated. Leon so far has reported only that he met with the Misrata militia as part of the parallel military meetings.

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