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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Head of internationally-recognized Libyan government suggests dialogue could continue past Oct. 20

Special UN Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, who is managing the talks between the two rival Libyan governments, expected the two governments' negotiators to return to Skhirat in Morocco, where the talks are being held, early this week.
Leon had expected that negotiators from the two rival governments would return today or tomorrow to discuss the names of officials for the new Government of National Accord(GNA). The final draft of the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was given to the two governments a week ago and they were supposed to discuss it last week. The internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) government certainly did not discuss the draft. The earliest they could discuss it a member said was today or Tuesday but it could be another week yet. The HoR was waiting for all their members to return from the Eid holiday that ended last Thursday. Neither government seems in any hurry to pass final judgement on the LPA.
Ageila Saleh, the leader of the HoR said that, if necessary, the parliament would continue talks past October 20 when its mandate expires. The HoR has already unilaterally decided it would extend its mandate. Leon had wanted an agreement on the GNA by the end of September with the GNA in operation before October 20. Although he was able to reach a final agreement among negotiators for the two sides, the HoR rejected the draft and called back its four negotiators. Only two returned. The other two reached another sub-agreement as well for the return of those who had been boycotting the HoR. However, the HoR claimed that the sub-agreement was not binding and again called on its representatives to return to Tobruk.
It is not clear if anyone from either side will return to the dialogue talks this week. Saleh said that the HoR wants the talks to "move a step forward." The HoR could move a step forward by discussing the draft in parliament and either approving or disapproving it. I expect that they do not want to do this because they know it would be voted down and they would be blamed for the failure of the talks. Instead, Saleh blamed the rival General National Congress(GNC) government based in Tripoli for "delaying democracy and putting obstacles in front of the House of Representatives and the Libyan community." The GNC is not preventing the HoR from approving or not approving the LPA. Saleh said that if the GNA was agreed to and in place before October 20 that would end the problem, but otherwise the HoR would continue. If the HoR continues to put off consideration of the LPA this hardly helps Leon reach his goal of having the GNA in place by October 20.
The international community wants a GNA in place so permission will be granted for intervention in Libya to deal with human smugglers who take migrants to Italy, and Malta. Several countries also plan intervention to deal with the Islamic State and try to enforce order. Neither of the two rival governments are in favour of such a move. A GNA might not agree to this either. The HoR is all in favour of lifting the ban on shipping weapons to Libya, however. The HoR wants weapons to fight Islamists and provide more arms for Operation Dignity. This is an operation of the commander of the Libyan armed forces Khalifa Haftar. He considers the forces of the GNC government to be Islamist terrorists and has vowed to destroy them. He has continued his attacks all throughout the peace talks. He was named as a person to be sanctioned by the EU but it is not clear that this ever happened. He is supported by Egypt as well as the Arab League and has signed a military agreement with Jordan, rather surprising if he is sanctioned. The GNC government also appears to be dragging its feet as far as passing judgement on the LPA is concerned.
Khalifa Al-Ghweil, prime minister of the GNC, just recently denounced its negotiating team for agreeing to the final LPA. He said that the document contradicted the 17 February revolution principles. He also said that they should not have continued in the talks while Khalifa Haftar was launching military operations in Benghazi. The UN denounced the attacks called "Operation Doom" and suggested they could derail the talks. Al-Ghweil called for suspension of the dialogue until attacks on Benghazi and also Al-Kufra in the south east also were stopped. Ghweil even suggested there could be an alternative peace dialogue of elders from different Libyan cities and towns. Leon has issued no press releases of late updating us on the status of the dialogue. We should hear something soon. As of now, it looks as if the process has stalled.

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