Monday, January 12, 2015

UN sponsored Libyan talks to take place this week in Geneva

The UN envoy to Libya, Bernadino Leon, held talks with both the two rival governments in the country and the two main military groups, Libyan Dawn and General Khalifa Haftar, the latter associated with the Tobruk, internationally recognized government.


Libya Dawn supports the government in Tripoli with the prime minister Omar al-Hassi. Haftar supports and is supported by the Tobruk government with prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni. The UN has constantly demanded that the two groups in conflict should cease military activity so that talks could take place but so far that has not happened with both sides battling each other. Haftar's forces have also carried out a number of air raids on Tripoli, including on the last functioning airport in Tripoli, and also the airport at Misrata. As well, his air force bombed a Greek tanker in the port of Derna killing two crew members.

 Earlier talks in September in Ghadames went nowhere but they did not include representatives from either military group nor representatives of the alternate government in Tripoli. Talks were also scheduled for December 9th but were postponed after continued clashes and disagreement among the parties. At least, these new talks feature some of the main players. Even so, there are some radical Islamist militias who probably will not go along with any peace process.

 A group said to be allied with the Islamic State claims that it has executed two Tunisian journalists who had been abducted in September last year. The authorities both in Tripoli and Tobruk seem to lack control over some areas where radical groups hold sway. This execution was in the eastern town of Barca.

 The talks are scheduled to take place this week at the UN offices in Geneva Switzerland. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief backed the talks saying: "This represents a last chance which must be seized. Libya is at a crucial juncture; the different actors should be in no doubt of the gravity of the situation that the country finds itself in." The full UN statement can be found here.

The statement says that the primary objective of the meeting is to reach agreement on how to manage the remainder of the transition period including the formation of a unity government to stabilize the situation until a constitution is drawn up and approved. Both sides support the constitutional committee drawing up a new constitution. Security arrangements to bring an end to the present clashes will also be discussed. These latter discussions will no doubt be quite challenging since neither General Haftar nor the Islamist and other anti-government militias will likely be agreeable to turning their power over to any other entity.

 Italy, however, has said that it would be willing to take part in a UN-peacekeeping role in Libya. The UN envoy, Leon, has proposed that the parties freeze their military operations for a few days prior to the talks. A specific date has not yet been proposed. The groups will not at first talk directly to each other since neither group recognizes the legitimacy of the other. As announcement of the talks was made, conflict continued in Benghazi with at least six killed and 20 injured. Those killed were said to be forces of General Haftar who has been attempting to retake Benghazi from the Islamist Shura Council for some time.


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