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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Special UN envoy Leon claims two day Libya dialogue talks end in positive atmosphere

The special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, who is chief facilitator of the dialogue between representatives of the 2 rival governments said recent 2-day talks were held in a positive and constructive atmosphere.
One reason for the positive and constructive atmosphere is that one of the two rival Libyan governments, the General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli had no representatives at the meetings. Leon claimed that the meetings on August 27-28 built on the "immense progress"already made in the search for peace. The main progress so far seems to be that parties not associated Tripoli initialed an agreement that the GNC refuses to sign since it amended an earlier draft to remove any real power from the GNC. Leon did so without consulting with or getting the approval of the GNC. The GNC did attend recent dialogue talks in Geneva when Leon assured them amendments that the GNC proposed to the draft would be considered in the final draft. However, when the GNC group returned to Tripoli, the GNC decided that Leon's assurances were not yet sufficient to attend the latest meetings.
The GNC must be under intense pressure to join the dialogue in spite of the fact that the whole document gives total legislative power to the House of Representatives(HoR), the Tobruk-based internationally recognized government. While the HoR is slated to name the prime minister and one of the deputies, the other deputy is to be named by the GNC. The GNC is also to name a majority of an advisory council, If the GNC does not attend Leon will simply forge ahead with names presented by others.
The pressure on the GNC no doubt has successfully created divisions within the GNC. Just before the present meetings. Saleh Makhzoum the head of the GNC negotiating group resigned along with a second member. Although the GNC did not give a reason many believe that it was due to differences with GNC president Nouri Abu Sahmain over how to proceed with negotiations. The GNC used his resignation as a reason not to attend recent talks since the GNC needed to time to restructure the negotiating committee.
The next round of the dialogue will be on September 03-04 back in Geneva again at the UN offices. Leon hopes that what is now called the Libyan Political Agreement would be ready for signing a few days later. Unless the concerns of the GNC are somehow met in the September meetings it is unlikely they will sign. However, even if they do not sign, they will have at least participated in and had their input into the parts of the Agreement that involve the GNC. Perhaps, the tactical view is that this is a better outcome than staying away and letting the other side do whatever it wishes.
Leon concluded his press statement: He said now is the time for all leaders to set aside their differences and put the country’s interest first and work towards the quick establishment of the Government of National Accord, as called for in the political agreement. This government, in partnership with the international community and the overwhelming support of the Libyan people, will be able to address Libya’s problems, combat terrorism, restore stability and put the country back on the road to economic recovery.As the GNC representatives were not present the talks started late and ended early according to the Libya Herald.
Mustapha Abou Shagour from the HoR negotiators said: "Next Thursday the names will be presented and the process for selecting the prime minister and the deputies will start. The trend inside the (Tripoli-based) General National Congress, from the votes we have seen, the majority would like to be part of the dialogue and they want to participate."In spite of their earlier position that the GNC needed assurances the draft would be amended to address their concerns, even the so-called hardliners appear ready to return to the dialogue, but if no changes are made to the draft as they have demanded they may not sign any final draft.
Unless the armed forces of Tripoli and of the HoR sign on to the agreement it will be unenforceable. Neither the Libya Dawn forces of the Tripoli government nor Khalifa Haftar head of the HoR forces have signed on to the agreement. Haftar callls Libya Dawn forces terrorists and refuses to sign a ceasefire or even talk with them. Even though Leon has noted that a parallel military dialogue is necessary he fails to mention it in the last several news releases. Although named as being subject to sanctions imposed by the EU, Haftar has been offered military help by the Arab League and recently signed a military deal with Jordan. He has the support of Egypt's President Sisi. Haftar would like to be Libya's president Sisi. It remains to be seen if Leon can successfully sideline Haftar. The Libyan Political agreement as it stands would remove the position of head of the armed forces of the new unity government from Haftar. For this reason among others, Haftar rejects the agreement and has done so openly without the HoR prime minister firing him or even insisting that Haftar must accept the agreement.

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