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Saturday, December 13, 2014

UN-sponsored Libya dialogue postponed

UN Special Envoy Bernadino Leon announced that talks aimed at resolving Libya's political crisis scheduled to begin today have been postponed until the beginning of next week.



An earlier set of talks in Ghadames in September had produced no progress. The talks were only with representatives of the internationally recognized government in Tobruk led by prime minister Al-Thinni, along with some representatives who had been elected but had boycotted the meetings of the House of Representatives in Tobruk. No militia leaders nor representatives of the rival government in Tripoli were included in the talks.

 Since that meeting, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled on November 6 that the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. This ruling was immediately rejected by the Tobruk government. The most recent statement from the UN does not refer to any government but just to "parties" and "stakeholders." The international community has simply ignored the ruling and carried on relations with the Tobruk government although a Turkish envoy has met with Omar al-Hasi prime minister of the Tripoli government. The UN is extending the range of participants in the talks this time around to include representatives of the Tripoli General National Congress government. Leon said the postponement would give more time to work out details. US officials are reported to believe that the talks will fail because of international meddling. The talks may have been postponed in order to negotiate terms of the dialogue.

Al Thinni and the Tobruk government have placed conditions on participating in the dialogue insisting that the Tripoli government recognize the legitimacy of the Tobruk parliament and armed groups such as Libya Dawn withdraw from Tripoli. These are truly ludicrous conditions. The Tripoli government holds that after the Supreme Court ruling it is clearly the legitimate government. Libyan Dawn is the force that allows the Tripoli government to continue to function and not be burned to the ground as Haftar arranged for an earlier parliament. Leon said of the planned dialogue: "So this dialogue should be based on respect. And we have agreed tonight that this respect will mean that the representatives from this house will be attending the dialogue considering themselves representatives of the GNC. But they will accept that these talks will have different views. Leon simply dodged a question as to whether the UN has changed its earlier position that the Tobruk House of Representatives was the sole legitimate government in Libya. He did say however that the Supreme Court ruling invalidating the House of Representatives had changed the situation: "We all agreed that the ruling of the court implied changes in the country. What is important is to have a dialogue where each one has its view and they accept the views of the others." The present talks appear to be only with political stakeholders, not the heads of militia for either side.

Haftar has made it clear that he will only participate in dialogue on certain conditions: He went on to demand that all parties present for the talks recognise the legitimacy of the HoR as the legally elected body of representatives for the Libyan people.The retired general also insisted that those invited agree to the national army’s initiatives for disarmament, the dissolution of militias, the turning over of all ports, airports and detention centres to the government and the cleansing of all areas of Libya of terrorists. Haftar is making it a condition of dialogue that the other side surrender. He also uses the Gadaffi, Al-Assad and al-Sisi trick of calling his opponents terrorists. Meanwhile he can also bomb his own people claiming they are terrorists while sabotaging Leon's efforts to create a dialogue. The postponement may be in part due to the fact that Leon knows at present he has no chance of any real dialogue.

 Meanwhile key players internationally have already decided the issue of who is the legitimate government:At an specially convened meeting in Abu Dhabi today, ambassadors and Special Envoys from the United States, the UK, France and Italy told Libya’s Prime Minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, that they continued to “recognise and support” the Libyan House of Representatives and his government. According to a statement from Thinni’s press office, they also said that they do not recognise any other entity as the legitimate government in the country.The four countries represent key international stakeholders in the UN-sponsored peace process. So no matter what the dialogue might decide the Tobruk govenrment will be recognized by these key players as the legitimate Libyan government. What message can this send to the Tripoli government? What could they achieve by dialogue? What is in it for them?

 As I wrote in another article, I think that many countries including the US actually hope that the talks will fail. If the key players do not attend the talks, an important group of countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US, the EU, and the UN have said that if key players fail to participate in the UN-led process that they will "consider additional measures....to counter expanding terrorist threats to Libya and the region". Haftar and the Tobruk government are home free. What may very well happen is intervention to help Haftar route the Islamist terrorist hordes.

 A report published in the Australian a few days ago as quoted by Global Research claims: “The U.S. is plotting to expand its military campaign to Libya after fighters loyal to Islamic State were seen training in the east of the country. A U.S. commander has acknowledged that discussions are under way in Washington about broadening the anti-Islamic State campaign to Libya.” (Australian.com) Leon from the UN may be genuinely trying to create a political solution but key western powers and the Tobruk government along with Haftar appear determined to turn the internal conflict into a war against terrorism. The result could be a disastrous and long civil war.

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