Thursday, June 4, 2015

UN special envoy to Libya claims country on verge of collapse

The UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, claims that while rival groups clash and so far refuse to agree to a political settlement the country is on the verge of an economic collapse.
There are two rival governments, the internationally recognized government, the House of Representatives(HoR) in Tobruk in eastern Libya, and the GNC or Salvation government in the capital, Tripoli. Leon has been attempting to get the two groups to agree to a unity government and peace terms since last fall. Leon says that the UN is preparing a new fourth draft of an agreement which he hopes to present to the parties in the first week of June. He also claimed that at the last round the parties had agreed to about 80 per cent of a draft agreement and only 20 per cent needed to be negotiated.
The GNC rejected the last draft vehemently. The GNC parliamentary spokesperson, Omar Humaidan, said that the GNC "completely rejects the draft proposal as it does not provide an objective comprehensive balanced solution".The Libyan Supreme Court last November ruled the election for the HoR unconstitutional and that the HoR parliament should be dissolved. The HoR rejected the decision and ignored it in contrast to their response to the decision of the same court when it ruled the election of the an Islamist supported prime minister as unconstitutional leaving then interim prime minister Abdullah Al-Thinni as prime minister of the GNC. The rival prime minister accepted the ruling. Al-Thinni is now head of the Tobruk government.

The Leon draft ignores the court decision and recognizes the HoR as the sole legitimate governing authority: the draft calls for a two-year transitional period and for all parties to respect the results of a parliamentary election. Its fourth governing principle states that the House of Representatives (HoR), the internationally-recognized parliament that is locked in a struggle for legitimacy with the GNC, is “the only legislative authority in the country”.The HoR was ruled unconstitutional by Libya’s High Court last November, after a tense session in the GNC-controlled capital Tripoli. The draft does not mention the GNC.
The UN seems to be leaning over backward to ensure that the Tobruk government is the basis for the unity government. The draft is a total rejection of the Supreme Court decision and of any claim to legitimacy of the Tripoli government. Even if a political settlement is forthcoming there has to be agreement between the Tripoli militia forces and the Tobruk government forces of chief of the armed forces CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar for there to be any peace and a cease fire. Khalifa claims that he will not talk to Libya Dawn the main Tripoli militia and claims that there is a military solution to the problem. He is already trying to accomplish that through Operation Dignity that he began last May.
The conflict between the two governments is complicated further by the fact that the Islamic State is growing in influence in Libya and is powerful within two cities Derna in Tobruk government-controlled territory and Sirte in Tripoli-controlled territory. However, since IS actions are often dramatic and newsworthy its actual significance in my opinion is overstated. The real danger in Libya comes from Haftar's Operation Dignity and his complete rejection of talks with Libya Dawn and his contempt for the UN and any but a military solution. He regards anyone opposed to him and the Tripoli government as Islamists to be defeated. Even Voice of America noted in early March when for a time Tobruk withdrew from talks and appointed Haftar as armed forces chief:Last week, the Tobruk-based parliament suspended participation in talks that U.N. envoy Bernardino Leon has tried to broker. The parliament said it did so in response to Western pressure to include Islamists in a future government. “Haftar’s appointment sends a signal that Tobruk agrees with Haftar that anyone opposed to it is an extreme Islamist,” a European diplomat, who declined to be identified for this article, told VOA. “It isn’t a peacemaking choice.”The Libyan government may not have had a choice in appointing Haftar. It might have been appoint him or have the parliament burned down as Haftar's Operation Dignity had done with the GNC parliament:

Bernardino claims that Libyans understand that the only solution to the situation was a political agreement among factions. At least one important Libyan disagrees, Khalifa Haftar, head of the Tobruk government armed forces: He would not agree to any ceasefire with armed groups, he said."Then the military solution is a must because it is decisive ... when we are forced to, when we see our homeland torn apart as it is happening now, between militias and terrorists, we resort to a military solution. We are betting on the military solution," Haftar said.A ceasefire between armed groups is an essential part of any successful peace process as even Leon recognizes. He has tried to get the relevant groups together. Just how will he do that when Haftar claims he would not agree to any ceasefire straight out?
Haftar has constantly gone against UN demands completely ignoring them usually without any serious consequences except perhaps that the UN has not yet removed the arms embargo on Libya. With the help of Egypt and other Arab friends, he can get around that. The economic collapse that Leon fears will be in large part a result of the Tobruk government trying to sabotage the Libyan Central Bank and the National Oil Company both of which have kept Libya functioning by being neutral. Tobruk has tried to fire the head of the Bank and has set up a rival oil company. The UN had issued warnings of the dangers in doing this but they were ignored by Tobruk.


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