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Friday, July 17, 2015

UN peace agreement signed even though one of two rival governments in Libya does not agree

Representatives from the internationally-recognized Tobruk House of Representatives(HoR) government and independent representatives signed a UN-sponsored draft plan on Sunday July 12 that will lead to the formation of a Government of National Accord.
Not present at the signing were representatives of the GNC or Tripoli government, the other competing government that controls much of western Libya including the capital. The GNC had already warned that it was unwilling to sign the document until amendments it had submitted be considered. Apparently that request must have been turned down.
Frankly, I consider the situation bizarre if not absurd. A peace plan is signed with one of two rival governments not even present. I have for some time been of the opinion that the UN, no doubt at the demand of outside powers, decided to present a draft to the GNC that it would reject. Leon's fourth draft was looked upon favourably by the GNC as it actually gave the group some power to at least veto or block legislation from the HoR, which in the agreement is the sole legitimate legislative body. The GNC made a huge concession in agreeing to this since it previously held that the HoR was illegitimate, and in fact "dissolved," through a ruling by the Libyan Supreme Constitutional Court last November that judged the elections for the HoR in June 2014 were unconstitutional.
Some of the pressure tactics used by both British and French ambassadors according to the pro-Tripoli Libya Observer are described in one of my recent articles. The mainstream press does not seem to bother to pick up on events such as these. Added pressure came from a UN security council resolution supporting the draft and threatening sanctions against those who blocked the peace process. Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Tobruk government, has blocked the peace process innumerable times without even being threatened with sanctions. The Al-Thinni government has also done precisely what the UN warned should not be done by setting up its own oil company in competition with the existing National Oil Company which has sold oil for both sides and has remained neutral. The Tobruk government also tried to fire the head of the Libyan National Bank threatening its neutrality as well.
The GNC has made it crystal clear that it will have no part in signing any dialogue drafts or resolutions until such time as serious consideration is given to its demands and proposals. It wants as well a promise that the GNC will be included in any final agreement. Imagine the present draft does not require the GNC sign on to be effective. You have a process that is supposed to be a negotiation between two rival governments but there can be a legitimate agreement without both parties signing. Imagine a union and company negotiating with the help of a third party. The third party comes up with a draft that the union likes and so their representatives sign. Can you imagine the response of the company when the union points out that in the agreement drafted it is not required that the company sign. The company would no doubt claim that such a clause in the draft was absurd. If the two parties in conflict do not sign then there is no agreement. The UN will no doubt point out that they rounded up a whole bunch of mayors etc. who also signed on to the draft but surely this is not a substitute for the main rival government not signing. Who knows how the mayors were chosen and what incentives they were given to sign and disincentives not to sign?
In a letter to Bernardino Leon, who is in charge of the peace dialogue, Nuri Sahmain, speaker of the GNC, said Leon had chosen many delegates, including 102 mayors, with no clear nor objective standard. He claimed this was at odds with equality and non-discriminatory principles agreed upon by Libyans. He noted too that Leon met several times with leaders from the General Staff in Misrata without seeking any permission from the Commander-in-Chief of the Tripoli forces or the GNC dialogue team. There is also the issue of the changed fourth draft. Sahmain claims the Tobruk parliament said it would refuse to sign the draft until the UNSMIL approves its amendments. The GNC made no such demand. While not all Tobruk amendments were accepted, many were with the result that the GNC no long had powers given to it in the unamended fourth draft. Sahmain insisted that the GNC dialogue team was willing to participate in further rounds of negotiations sponsored by the UNSMIL in order that the group could propose amendments to the draft. This Sahmain claimed could result in an agreed upon national unity government to resolve Libya's political crisis and generate a unified front against terrorists in Libya.
Among the thorny issues that must be resolved before there is the least hope of any GNC agreement is the status of commander of the Tobruk forces CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar. Haftar is the main reason for the present conflict in the first place. After a failed coup in February 2014, he began Operation Dignity by attacking Islamist militia camps in Benghazi and then his allies as part of Operation Dignity burned down the parliament buildings. The Tripoli forces, headed by Libya Dawn, drove Haftar loyalists out of Tripoli and much of western Libya. They are not about to sign on to any agreement that would see him stay on. But this is just one of a number of issues that make any process based on this agreement simply a recipe for continuation of a civil war and Operation Dignity. The present draft would apparently validate all past decisions of the HoR parliament and that would include the appointment of Khalifa Haftar.
The signing of the deal puts even more pressure on the GNC to sign and isolates them. As is evident by the arm-twisting of the French and British ambassadors, foreign powers are behind the scenes suggesting what the UNSMIL should do next. Added to the UN resolutions of support, 11 nations involved in the talks and the EU as well congratulated the delegates:"who have demonstrated their responsibility, leadership and courage in this crucial moment by initialling this draft agreement..
We call on the remaining delegates and all Libyan decision makers to unite now and to join in supporting this agreement, in the interest of their country and people and in Libya's common future."
This all just seems a mockery of bargaining, a fitting "agreement" designed by some of the same countries that brought you a "no-fly zone" to protect Libyan citizens when the ruler, Gadaffi, was bombing his own people. The whole operation was designed to degrade the armed forces of Gadaffi and ensure regime change through the success of the revolt against him. The "no-fly zone" was the appropriate idealized smoke screen sanctioned by the UN and used to disguise what was going on. Haftar has bombed his own people in rebel-held zones just as did Gadaffi. He even got help from Egypt, and the UAE. There has not even been a hint of sanctions for his sabotage of a peace process.
Leon praised the role of the GNC: "They have also played a critical role in this text. As I have said many times, there is no text that is entirely satisfactory to all parties and that responds to all their demands... I am confident that in the weeks ahead a clear decision will be made and will address all sides and issues,"
Al Jazeera describes the agreement as an important step because the parties who wish to join the next period of negotiations would be required to abide by the wording of the draft accord. To the contrary it is a step backward unless your aim is to isolate the GNC and forge ahead without their agreement. If GNC amendments are to be discussed then the wording of the draft accord must be subject to change. It is totally counter-productive to make it a condition of partaking in further dialogue that a party that rejects the draft abide by its wording. The UN and these negotiations have been filled with ups and downs but the problem at this stage is that the power brokers appear to have decided that somehow the GNC can just be kept out of the process or forced to sign on.
As usual, Bernardino Leon tells us nothing of the progress of the military negotiations. He tried to bypass Tripoli authorities by meeting with commanders in Misrata without getting permission from the Tripoli command. At the same time he said he was meeting with representatives from the Tobruk forces in Cairo. He refused to name who they were.The Tripoli forces of Libya Dawn have already said they reject the UN draft. Khalifa Haftar commander of the Tobruk forces said he will never sign a cease fire with Libya Dawn or negotiate with them since he calls them terrorists. So at what stage are these parallel negotiations? There has been no report for weeks. Yet Leon has said several times they are crucial to the success of the political negotiations.


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