Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Libyan peace dialogue to resume on Thursday August 27

Bernardino Leon, UN special envoy for Libya, who directs the peace dialogue, has said, after two days of talks earlier in Geneva, that he wants to reach agreement on the fifth draft of a peace agreement by the end of August.
The Libya Observer, that favours the Tripoli-based General National Council(GNC) government and the Libya Herald that usually favours the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk both report that talks, scheduled to start on Monday 24, will instead begin this Thursday 27 in Skhirat Morocco.
Apparently the dialogue was postponed until Thursday after a request from the HoR to hold further discussions on the agreement and Government of National Accord or unity government. According to the Libya Observer, Leon met on Saturday with a 12 member delegation from the HoR to review the formation of the proposed government. Leon reaffirmed his view that international military support to Libya could only be done through the unity government proposed in the peace agreement. Several countries are already planning intervention in Libya and are just waiting to obtain permission from the new government that is supposed to unify the country. Earlier, Leon tried to form the government without one of the two rival governments signing the peace agreement. However, before the Geneva talks he was able to convince the GNC to attend with promises that the final agreement would incorporate amendments they suggested and deal with GNC concerns.
After the GNC delegates returned and discussed Leon's proposed mechanism for dealing with their concerns the GNC vowed not to attend the new talks unless they received written assurances that their amendments would be incorporated in the final draft. It is clear that so far Leon and the HoR take the position there can be no amendments. The dialogue is to go ahead on the basis of the draft that the GNC has consistently rejected since back in July. The fifth draft removes powers given to the GNC by the fourth draft. Amendments were made without the knowledge or approval of the GNC but as demanded by the HoR.
It appears that Leon, as before, might be going ahead without the GNC signing on to the process. He is meeting in Cairo with the 12 Tobruk delegates and also the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shourky. Egypt is a big supporter of Khalifa Haftar the former CIA asset who now heads the Tobruk armed forces. The Egyptian foreign ministry voiced its support for the peace agreement after the July talks which ended in parties initialling the agreement in the absence of the GNC delegates. The ministry claimed that it showed the positive attitude of those who initialled the agreement. To me it showed that the foreign powers who call the shots want a unity government to go ahead whether a main party to the dispute agrees or not.
Another important diplomat is in Cairo taking part in all these talks US State Department Special Envoy for Libya Jonathan Winer. Winer will discuss coordination between Egypt and the US to solve issues related to Libya including fighting terrorism and combating illegal immigration. Libya (HoR) government and Egypt have been pressing the UN to lift the arms embargo on Libya, and also impose a naval blockade on areas not controlled by the HoR, also to help build the Libyan army commanded by General Haftar.
Haftar may be a thorn in the side of the plans for a unity government. The planned unity government would see him sidelined as commander in chief of the armed forces. Haftar rejects the agreement and has said numerous times that he would never talk to or sign a ceasefire with the Tripoli militia whom he regards as terrorists. The Tripoli militia also reject the agreement. Leon stresses that there must be a military agreement parallel to the political agreement but gives no reports on what he is doing if anything on that issue.
Haftar and his air force chief have been named by the EU as subject to sanctions for their actions against the peace process. Haftar laughed the sanctions off. Well he should as he just recently signed a military agreement with Jordan as one of the moves by the Arab League to help Libya fight terrorists. For Haftar terrorists are not just the Islamic State but also the forces of the rival Tripoli government. Apparently Leon does not know what is going on when he claims that military support for Libya can only be through the proposed unity government. This is pure fantasy to accompany rhetoric of support for the process emanating from his bosses. In reality military support is going to Libya but only to the Haftar forces courtesy of some Arab League countries including Jordan and Egypt. It is going to a commander who is sanctioned by the EU. The US and EU can stand back and pat themselves on the back and claim they are not choosing sides in the civil war. This is pure poppycock.
I just received a message from a Facebook friend in the UK whose father is active in Libyan politics. Apparently there have been exchanges of messages between the president of the GNC Nouri Abusahmain and Leon. The president said that he "appreciates the smooth flow of increasing numbers of letters" between the two. He noted that the letters say how important the dialogue is but still are not addressing the concerns that the GNC had brought forth in an earlier meeting in Algiers. Thanks to my friend for translating part of the letter from the Arabic.It remains to be seen if as in the last dialogue round the GNC is convinced to go at the last minute by Leon.


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