Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bernardino Leon UN special envoy to Libya to be replaced by veteran German diplomat

The Libya Herald reports that Bernardino Leon the UN Special Envoy to Libya will be replaced by Martin Kobler, a German diplomat, in the coming weeks.
Kobler, 62, is a long-serving career diplomat quite accustomed to serving in problem areas where there is combat. He led the UN peace mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has served the UN in Afghanistan and Iraq as well. He is fluent in Arabic and formerly served as German ambassador to Egypt and Iraq.
Leon had served as UN special envoy to Libya since August of 2014 and since September last year has been attempting to forge a peace agreement between the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government based in Tobruk and the rival General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli. While his efforts were highly praised at a special meeting of the UN on Friday, he has yet to be successful. There is tremendous pressure by the international community for negotiators to sign off on a final draft of the Libyan Political Agreement Leon has prepared, but so far this has not happened. There is no guarantee even if negotiators from the two sides do sign the agreement that either of the two parliaments will ratify it. John Kerry, the US Secretary of State was among those pushing for an agreement: "There is no time to waste. We hope that the process can be completed within a very small number of days,"
Leon has numerous times praised the progress of talks. In January he spoke of "good progress" being made and in March said the two sides were close to an agreement. In subsequent months he made similar claims. He has set deadlines four times each described as final and each missed. He still hopes to have a peace deal by the 20th of October the newest final deadline when the mandate of the HoR expires. In July he had an agreement initialled that was agreed to by only the HoR in a meeting boycotted by the rival government the GNC. Since then he finally made amendments to deal with GNC concerns only to have the final draft rejected by the HoR. This has been played down by Leon and he managed to convince the HoR to send representatives to the recent meeting in New York at the UN. The GNC also sent representatives. Leon's departure may be welcomed by both rival governments who have had their disagreements with him from the outset, although his leaving appears to be part of a normal rotation rather than a move to dump him.
The international community has put tremendous pressure on Leon to finally finish his work and on the negotiators to sign an agreement. It is not clear that either side is ready to sign off on the Libya Political Agreement or form a Government of National Accord at this time. The Libya Herald account of the UN meeting chaired by the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that while Moon made a strong call for the agreement to be signed the 23 Libyan delegates sat in silence: Had Libya’s two parliaments approved the peace deal, the delegates would have been allowed speeches, shaking hands and getting praise, maybe even garlands of flowers, from assembled diplomats.
According to one report the delegates from the GNC government even had to be coaxed by US, UK, and Italian ambassadors to return to the meeting after they had gone back to their hotel in protest against reception procedures since they were not received as official delegates. They also walked out of the meeting a second time when they were not given time to rebut the content of some speeches given by the HoR delegates.
The GNC roundly denounced the speech of Ageela Saleh, head of the HoR, as hate speech for his criticism of the GNC. Saleh is a close ally of the commander of the HoR armed forces, Khalifa Haftar. Haftar has rejected the Libyan Political Agreement. Saleh urged the UN to provide more arms to Haftar to fight terrorism. Haftar considers the armed forces of the rival GNC government to be terrorists. Saleh, sometimes called Ageela Saleh Gwaider, said that no deal could be done while the rival GNC held the capital Tripoli according to the Guardian. No wonder the GNC called his address "hate speech".
While Moon moans about his deadline for a ceasefire being missed, Khalifa Haftar has continued his "Operation Doom" in Benghazi. He announced the military operation just before final stages of the dialogue even though it was condemned by the UN and led the GNC delegation to recall their negotiators. While Haftar was supposed to be subject to sanctions by the EU he has instead been given support by Egypt, the Arab League, and the UAE and recently signed a military agreement with Jordan. All of these countries and the Arab League were at the UN meeting supporting the Libyan Political Agreement that Haftar rejects. Any serious move towards peace must involve removing Haftar from power but so far there is no indication that this will happen. Instead he is given support by a number of countries. The plan may be to have the GNC reject the LPA and then the international community can punish them and reward Haftar-even though he too rejected the agreement — but so far this is not working out.


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