Tuesday, September 8, 2015

UN envoy claims progress made in recent Libyan dialogue talks

The UN Special Envoy to LIbya, Bernardino Leon, claimed that two days of meetings in Geneva with all parties to the Libyan peace dialogue had made progress towards finalizing plans for a Government of National Accord.
The GNC-government representatives had attended these meetings after boycotting an earlier meeting because they were not convinced that changes they wanted in the present draft of the Libyan Political Agreement would be addressed. However, after recent talks with Leon in Istanbul and reorganization of their negotiating committee after the resignation of the head of the group, the GNC returned to the talks. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives(HoR) government along with others had already initialled Leon's fifth draft agreement even though it was rejected by the GNC government who had not attended the meeting at which the agreement was initialled.
Leon said many points had been clarified in the meetings, particularly with the GNC delegation. Leon said the GNC group will still have to consult its colleagues on "a couple of issues." In spite of difficulties, Leon said the GNC remained involved and all parties were willing to consider discussions. He hoped the GNC delegation would join the talks next week. Leon appears to be recognizing that the entire GNC may reject what is happening in the dialogue talks as has happened in the past. The new negotiating team is seen to be more "hard line" by the pro-HoR government Libya Herald. Leon hopes to reach an agreement and have it signed by September 20.
Leon agreed to answer questions at his press conference. A first question related to the issue of names for the Prime Minister and the two Vice Prime Ministers. The HoR is to present names for the Prime Minister and one Vice Prime Minister. The GNC will present names for the other Vice Prime Minister. Leon said names had been presented by the HoR but not as yet by the GNC. He said he hoped to have the GNC names at the next meeting, probably Wednesday. Leon said there will still two Annexes to the agreement to be discussed, the first the list of the government members and the third the list of the State Council.
Another question had to do with the concerns of the GNC, who up to now have demanded amendments to the draft. Leon has so far refused this. Leon replied that some of the concerns could be addressed in the annexes and others in final provisions. It seems instead of amending the draft Leon is planning to add provisions which might have the same effect as an amendment. Leon said parties should be flexible on the overall package and noted that the specific concerns of all parties should be addressed. This is a much more conciliatory position on the concerns of the GNC than Leon has taken in the past — when he went ahead with dialogue talks without the GNC and appeared to be deliberately isolating the GNC while putting pressure on them to join the talks. However, Leon appears still be acting to undercut the GNC and planned to meet with senior military officers without obtaining permission either of the GNC govenment or General Staff. Leon had already done this earlier in an apparently successful attempt to split the Tripoli military forces when he met with leaders in Misrata, again without permission of the government or General Staff. The Libya Observer reports:GNC President Nuri Abu Sahmain has protested the intention of the UN envoy to Libya to hold meetings with Chief of Staff Officers and leaders of revolutionary fighters without prior permission from the dialogue team or the General Staff.
In a letter addressed to Bernardino Leon on Saturday, Abu Sahmain said Leon's attempt to meet the army officers without permission is a clear violation of local and international laws and conventions in force, and a breach to the legitimacy of GNC.
Leon continues to report nothing about any parallel meeting with the military officials of the HoR government. The commander of the armed forces Khalifa Haftar refuses to talk to Tripoli forces whom he calls terrorists and claims he will never agree to a cease fire with them. Without a parallel military agreement any political agreement will be unenforceable as Leon himself has said several times, but at present ignores his own caveat.
The GNC has listed nine points that must be addressed before they will accept the agreement. They are all listed here.. Leon said some had already been agreed upon but others needed further discussion. One point requires dismissal of Khalifa Haftar, the present commander of the armed forces of the HoR government: "Seventh, there must be a clear dismissal of the military coup plotters, who clearly rebelled on the political process represented in the constitutional declaration." The final point is to require the final agreement be approved by the GNC government. Even the existing document would remove the role of commander in chief of the government armed forces from Haftar to high government officials. This is one reason Haftar rejects the document.
One questioner noted that the HoR delegation would not discuss the points proposed by the GNC. He asked if Leon had the agreement from the HoR to add the points to the annex. Leon said that he had been discussing the points with the HoR delegation and believed that it would be possible to accommodate the 9 points while keeping the support of the HoR and all the other representatives. He may discover this not to be the case when the HoR look at the nine points. Leon is often optimistic in the face of the odds that things will not work out.
Meanwhile, there are already clear divisions within the HoR government. Pro-Haftar demonstrators on Friday objected to the UN agreement and supported a government by a military tribunal after the HoR mandate runs out on October 20th. Haftar has long supported this and rejected the dialogue. Another member of the HoR said that the eastern part of Libya should declare independence. A showdown with Haftar appears inevitable in the near future.


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