Monday, August 10, 2015

Resumed Libyan peace dialogue in Geneva may be doomed from the outset

The United Nations intends to begin a new round of dialogue talks on Monday in Geneva. However, the talks may be doomed from the start unless the General National Congress government based in Tripoli agrees to send representatives.
The UN announced last Thursday that the conference would be held this Monday but the location has not been known until now. While Bernardino Leon, the UN special envoy to Libya who has been arranging the discussions, talks of the "significant progress achieved to date," as I stated in a recent article, the progress can be summed up as follows:The progress includes a non-agreement that was rejected by one of the two rival governments, the General National Congress government based in Tripoli. While the internationally-recognized government based in Tobruk accepted the draft peace agreement, Kahlifa Haftar, commander of the armed forces, and the air force head have rejected it... Haftar refuses to talk with Tripoli's Libya Dawn militia and vows that he will not agree to a ceasefire with them. He considers them terrorists. The "significant process" so far is to isolate the GNC government by having other parties initial an agreement that Leon must have known the government could not sign.Leon has tried to divide the Tripoli supporters and has managed to get some municipal representatives from Misrata and even Tripoli municipalities to sign on to the draft. He also met with military commanders from Misrata without obtaining approval from the Tripoli government central command.
Leon hopes to go ahead and name a prime minister and two deputies who would then appoint a cabinet in consultation with dialogue participants. But if the GNC representatives do not attend this will ensure that there will be no political solution at all. In spite of this, foreign interests may want the formation of the Government of National Accord or unity government. This government will then be used as a vehicle to call for foreign intervention, which is already being prepared. Yet, even if by threats and enticements the forces behind all this manipulation manage to create a unity government, it is not clear that such a government would support foreign intervention. In any event neither the Tripoli forces nor the Tobruk forces of Khalifa Haftar agree to the Leon Plan as it is now called. As a recent article in the usually pro-Tobruk Libya Heraldsums it up: So far Leon has not seriously engaged either the HoR’s army commander General Khalifa Hafter, or Misratan Saleh Badhi, commander of the Samoud Front, the most hard-core of the Libya Dawn militia groupings. The presence of either man at the talks would trigger almost certain boycott from their enemies, yet no peace plan will be worth the paper it is written on without their agreement.For some time, I have been writing a whole series of critical articles on what is happening in the dialogue process. I wrote back in the beginning of July that Leon appeared to be deliberately taking actions that would isolate the GNC government by amendments to the fourth draft agreement that favoured the Tobruk House of Representatives(HoR) and deleted powers that the GNC had been given before the amendments. Then Leon went on to have participants initial an agreement in the absence of one main party to the conflict the GNC. I pointed out the absurdity of this. Now it seems other commentators are finally also taking note of the reality of what is happening while the mainstream press contents itself with reporting anodyne factoids devoid of most significant contextual content or any critical analysis. As well as the Libya Herald article just cited written by Hadi Fornaji, there is an even more critical article by Emadeddin Zahri Muntasser at the International Policy Digest appropriately titled "When an Agreement Isn't."
Muntasser sums up the contradictory nature of what is happening in his first sentence: In their determination to produce a Libyan peace agreement, western governments appear willing to sacrifice both peace and agreement to accomplish their goal.
He points out there is no agreement on a political settlement in spite of all the hoopla and praise from the UN, the U.S., the EU, and others. This should be obvious but few analysts appear the least bit fazed in the face of absurd claims as long they are advanced by those who count.Muntasser is the first analyst I have seen who describes the pressure put on delegates to sign onto the Leon plan:Elected members of the Parliament and of the GNC have been threatened with UN sanctions; the French Ambassador to Libya threatened the freezing of assets of the Libyan Central bank; the IMF Chief has done an about-face on the long-standing internationally accepted policy of recognizing an independent Libyan Central Bank, and so on. Such pressure to approve a UN plan, and the pressure from outside the country directed at elected representatives of the Libyan people, is hardly “by Libyans on behalf of the Libyan people.”Mantasser notes as well that Leon is intent on going ahead with formation of the Government of National Accord with or without the participation of the GNC, or of the military forces of Tripoli or the Tobruk government. How the pending disaster can be avoided is not clear.
We will find out tomorrow if representatives of the GNC will even show up at the Geneva meeting. The Libya Herald, a pro-Tobruk news outlet, says they will while the pro-GNC Libya Observer did not know whether they will or not. Translations from the Arabic of a friend on Facebookwhose father is involved in the negotiations suggests that they will not go unless they have written notification that amendments to the fifth draft will be considered. Leon's most recent statements have not clarified this issue. The GNC thinks that he will consider amendments but most others think he will not.
The Libya Observer has just issued an update on the situation. The GNC mandated its president Nuri Sahmain to contact Leon to make sure that the GNC amendments to the Leon plan be put on the table before GNC representatives will attend any future dialogue rounds. The GNC statement claims that both sides agreed in Algeria that the Libyan political agreement " will not be finally approved unless it is accepted and signed by the GNC." Sahmain has already sent the request to Leon and is awaiting a response from Leon tonight or tomorrow. The GNC is ready to send representatives to Geneva tomorrow if the response from Leon is positive.


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