Tuesday, February 9, 2016

UN Libya special envoy presses for HoR approval of Government of National Accord

In a news release, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Libya, Martin Kobler, stresses the importance of a vote approving the new GNA cabinet list by the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR).

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The release was issued after Kobler met with HoR President Agila Saleh in Shahat, in eastern Libya on February 5. Kobler said the two had a long conversation about the political process. Kobler mentioned he had just returned from Rome where he met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and a number of foreign ministers.
Kobler conveyed the message that it was now very important that the political process move ahead quickly. He said the Presidency Council of the GNA was meeting to draft the new list of cabinet ministers. Kobler said the list had to be based upon competency and the HoR should be ready to endorse the list when it was presented to them. President Saleh was in the past accused of being in opposition to the LPA and GNA and as having prevented the HoR from voting approval of the LPA. For a time, he cooperated with his rival the president of the General National Congress (GNC) in promoting a Libya-Libya dialogue in competition with the UN process. However, he is now said to support the GNA and LPA. Kobler gave no indication when the new cabinet list might be ready or when the HoR might vote on it. The earlier list of 32 ministries was rejected by the HoR back on January 25 or 26 and theGNA was given 10 days to send them a new short list. That deadline has run out as of today at latest. Kobler fails to mention the deadline in his news release. This is probably a sign that the deadline will be missed and he does not want to set another to be missed as well.
Kobler provides three reasons as to why the GNA needs approval so urgently. First is the expansion of Daesh or the Islamic State in the east, west and south. While this is true to some extent it is a bit exaggerated. The Islamic State actually lost the first and foremost city where it had its first foothold in Libya, Derna. It has been driven out of the city by the Shura Council and allies and has retreated to the mountains and one outlying area near the city. The threat of the Islamic State is being used to justify foreign military intervention. In turn, the GNA will be used as a means of legitimizing the intervention by requesting help to combat the Islamic State. A passage from this article sums up the plan: The West now seems to be concentrating its efforts on cobbling together some kind of fragile “unity government” that can provide a legal cover for the next war by inviting foreigners in to help defeat ISIS. But Italy, France and others are (rightfully) terrified of what ISIS strength in Libya could mean in terms of migrant flows and terrorists. Also, if ISIS gets access to Libya’s oil and gas fields, even at todays prices, this would be a lot of money for a group that has vowed endless war against the West.The narrative about the Islamic State obtaining revenue from gas and oil is also part of this process of manufacturing consent for foreign intervention. However, Daesh's strategy, seen clearly in its actions, is to destroy oil supplies by burning oil tanks and blowing up pipelines. This is hardly a revenue-producing strategy. Daesh is depriving Libya of revenue it needs desperately but this fact is not nearly as useful to justify intervention as the threat of the Islamic State getting more revenue and expanding.
Secondly, Kobler cites the humanitarian situation. All those foreign countries which are so anxious to have the GNA up and running so they can intervene militarily are not being prevented from providing aid now through the two rival governments.
The final reason is the the declining financial resources in the country. No doubt if the parties agree to the GNA much aid, financial and otherwise, would flow into the country. If the UN and foreign countries were so concerned with the financial situation in Libya they could offer financial aid now. They are using financial aid simply as a lever to pressure Libyans to accept the UN-brokered GNA. Kobler says that the GNA must be approved and move to Tripoli as soon as possible. The GNA needs to be there so that it can gain control of the Libyan Central Bank and National Oil Company and then proceed to starve the GNC of funds. The HoR is not likely to attempt to continue as a separate government since it will be the sole legislative body of the HoR. However, it remains to be seen if the HoR will actually approve the GNA. It must approve the LPA as well and pass a constitutional amendment. The HoR has insisted that Section 8 of the LPA that gives the function of commander in chief of the Libyan National Army to the Presidents Council of the GNA rather than Khalifa Haftar, be deleted. Haftar probably still has sufficient power to prevent the HoR approving the LPA unless they are assured he will stay on as commander in chief of the LNA. GNC signers of the LPA will not tolerate this and will leave the government if this happens. We will soon see whether a deal has been worked out with Haftar. Kobler mentions nothing about these crucial issues. This is standard protocol for UN news releases to leave out crucial facts when they interfere with the narrative they are pushing.