Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Libya factions agree to hold more peace talks



Tripoli - Mainstream media seem uninterested in what is happening in Libya unless it involves attacks by the Islamic State, with foreigners, especially Americans, being killed, or anything involving US politicians like Hilary Clinton.


For some time there has been a political crisis in Libya, with one government in Tripoli supported by Libya Dawn militia among others, and the other internationally-recognized government in Tobruk supported by CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar. The opposing militia have been clashing ever since last May, when Haftar announced Operation Dignity, and tried to dissolve the General National Council but only managed to burn down the parliament. The UN, through the untiring efforts of UN special envoy to Libya, Bernadino Leon, has long been attempting to bring the feuding groups together in a dialogue. Earlier in January some talks were finally successful although neither representatives of the Tripoli government nor the Libya Dawn militias participated. After the talks, Libya Dawn announced a unilateral ceasefire followed two days later by the Tobruk government also announcing a ceasefire, but with the caveat that terrorists would continue to be pursued. Haftar continued his attacks on militia associated with the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries, a group that had ruled most of Benghazi for some time until Haftar's recent offensive against them. Haftar's militia also seized the Benghazi branch of the Central Bank of Libya.
 The United Nations Support Mission In Libya (UNSML) recently issued a report after two days of discussion on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The parties are simply referred to as "participants" with no mention that some were from the Tobruk government. Others were from areas held by the Tripoli government and some were elected in the elections last June, but have not been attending the House of Representatives meetings. The UN statement does not mention the Libyan Supreme Court ruling on November 6th last year declaring the elections last June were unconstitutional and the House of Representatives should be dissolved. There is no mention in the statement that no representatives of the Tripoli government attended nor the main militia of that government Libya Dawn. Leaving out crucial items such as this is almost de rigueur in UN statements. 
The dialogue included discussion of the formation of a "consensual national unity" government that would ensure unity of the country and state institutions. Discussions also encompassed the mandate of the government, how decisions would be made, and how members would be selected. The group also discussed what guarantees the international community might give to carry out the tasks and in dealing with those obstructing the political and security process. Haftar has many times obstructed the process, by bombing Tripoli, and carrying out his Operation Dignity but this has been supported by the Tobruk government. The most that has happened is UN complaints about his actions. It is quite unlikely that any action will be taken against Haftar since he is a champion of ridding Libya of Islamists. The participants want to speed up the process to reach a consensus on the national unity government. This would include a permanent ceasefire as well as monitoring mechanisms. 
The participants mentioned withdrawal of armed groups from cities particularly the capital. Do the armed forces of the Tobruk government count as "armed groups" or only militia. Haftar's militia is now regarded as absorbed into the Tobruk government armed forces and Haftar has been "called up" out of retirement to serve. The statement called on all sides in the conflict to abide by the agreement to stop military operations announced by the parties — again no mention of who actually announced the ceasefire. Nor is there any mention of the Tobruk government's exception for action pursuing terrorists. Haftar continued his battle in Benghazi and even seized the Benghazi branch of Libya's Central Bank. None of this is worth mentioning. Of course the participants were unanimous in rejecting terrorism and even mentioned a specific action, the attack on a hotel in Tripoli. There are specific items apparently that can be mentioned. The attack the statement notes caused Libyan and foreign casualties. No details are given, this would be against UN protocol, which is to provide the least amount of information possible. The Islamic State is not mentioned as claiming responsibility for the attack. There were 10 killed, one who was French and also an American. This is probably what makes it worth mentioning. The 600 casualties caused by Haftar's Operation Dignity offensive in Benghazi are not worth a mention. 
Another meeting involving representatives of municipal councils of both towns and cities was held last Wednesday and is reported on here. Further meetings are planned that would include representatives of armed groups, political parties and societal and tribal forces. The statement concludes with this bromide: The Mission emphasizes that the dialogue is an inclusive and transparent process driven by the Libyan national interest. It is not clear what is supposed to be transparent about the process. The participants in the dialogue process agreed to transfer talks to Libya. The Tripoli government, the General National Council, announced that it would attend the next talks. After Haftar attacked the Central Bank in Benghazi they had announced they would not attend. They are now prepared to meet in any Libyan city. 
However, they set out conditions for participation: Limiting the delegates to the talks; No dialogue with “wanted people”; Compliance with the Supreme Court ruling of 6 October, 2014; and Respect for the Constitutional Declaration. Congress also indicated that it would not accept anything that had already been decided in Geneva because its representatives had not been there. The reference to "wanted people" is probably intended to refer to Khalifa Haftar. There was a warrant issued for his arrest that was still in force when the present Tobruk Prime Minister, Abdullah al-Thinni was Prime Minister under the GNC. A court also issued another warrant for his arrest after Haftar bombed a Tripoli airport. The GNC accepts the Supreme Court decision, which would make the Tobruk government illegitimate — although not according to the defenders of the House of Representatives interpretation, as relayed by the Libya Herald. The Libya Herald has the date wrong, the ruling was on November 6. Neither government recognizes the legitimacy of the other and it was never expected that they would dialogue directly. The GNC people could attend the dialogue with the discussion back and forth through other participants. Even Iranian TV with its Irish expert gets on the Islamic State big deal bandwagon as part of the appended video.


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