Bernardino Leon, the special UN envoy for Libya, who is guiding peace talks between the two main rival factions in Libya, claims that the two parties are "very close to a final agreement" on a unity government.
Injecting a note of realism into the process, Leon said that the agreement would need the approval of fighters on the ground. He was hoping to arrange a face-to-face meeting next week. Leon said:
Leon will be fortunate if he is able to get Khalifa Hafter to even participate in any dialogue with the main militia of the other side, Libya Dawn. He has constantly cast his opponents as terrorists, and derided the talks as a dialogue with terrorists. He has consistently snubbed his nose at the UN and even bombed the airport several times from which Tripoli representatives were leaving for the talks. During the talks he announced an offensive against his rivals to take Tripoli with the full support of the internationally recognized government in Tobruk. He is the commander of their armed forces:"The government salutes the operations launched by army units south of Tripoli which constitute the start of an offensive to liberate Tripoli and its suburbs," This offensive is ongoing, and as part of the offensive there have been disturbances in some parts of the capital which the Tripoli authorities have put down. As usual, the UN lashes out with pathetic impotent rhetoric pleading with the two rivals to stop the violence in Tripoli on pain of receiving an even greater tongue-lashing.
There are three strands of dialogue going on. The main one with representatives of the two parliaments., a dialogue between representatives of parties and political figures, and finally groups of municipal authorities. It is not clear what practical significance all these meetings will have. The press pays little or no attention to them. What is important in Libya is drowning immigrants, and IS shooting and beheading Ethiopian Christians.
Leon noted that the news was not all great and cited recent violence in Tripoli. He said: "We know that the enemies of peace, the enemies of the agreement, will be active and be even more active in the coming days and weeks." We will see next week if the two main groups fighting on the ground are even willing to meet with the UN together. I expect that Libya Dawn will, but it remains to be seen if Haftar goes against everything he has said and agrees to a cease fire. There may be considerable pressure behind the scene from the US and others to do so. However, Haftar has Egyptian president el-Sisi on his side. El-Sisi is receiving arms from Russia and the US, which recently released to him $1.3 billion in military aid. We will see how strongly the US and its allies support the peace process and if they are willing to reign in or disown Haftar.
"I can tell you that we have now a draft which looks like something very close to a final agreement, Eighty percent of the text in this draft is, let me put it this way, is something that the parties can agree."The two sides will return to Libya from the talks in Morocco for consultations. They will return the week after next to finalize the agreement.
"This will be the first time the armed groups, the people who are holding weapons and who are fighting on the ground, might meet.This is very important because all this work, all these efforts, will not work, will be useless, if we don't bring completely on board all those who are taking decisions on the ground, who are fighting on the ground."He may need to do as with the political groups not have a face to face meeting but a dialogue through UN mediators. The political parties did not talk face-to-face since neither recognizes the legitimacy of the other. They communicated through UN mediators.