Wednesday, October 28, 2015

United Nations threatens sanctions against those blocking peace progress

For a long time now the international community and the UN have been cheerleaders for the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) brokered by the UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon.
The LPA will set up a unity government, the Government of National Accord(GNA), that will do away with the system of rival conflicting governments that exists at present. The eastern part of the country is mostly under control of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk. Much of the west is controlled by the General National Congress(GNC) government based in Tripoli. The two parliaments were supposed to vote on the agreement several weeks ago. The HoR met to vote a week ago and the next day but put off any vote until today. This is the day before the HoR mandate runs out. Leon had insisted the agreement should be ratified by then so that the new GNA could take power. This obviously will not happen. The HoR has unilaterally extended its mandate in any event.
The UN has stressed that it is authorized to sanction parties that interfere with the dialogue and peace process. Yet, the commander of the HoR armed forces, CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar, has continually blocked any peace process. Back in May of 2014 he started a military campaign, Operation Dignity, to rid Libya of Islamists — according to his version of events. In the process of Operation Dignity, the parliament in Tripoli was burned down. Abdullah al-Thinni, now prime minister of the HoR, was then interim prime minister of the GNC. He called Haftar's actions illegal and noted there was a warrant out for his arrest. Instead of ever arresting Haftar, when he became prime minister of the HoR al-Thinni appointed him commander of the Libyan Army.
Together with international help in some instances, Haftar has bombed his own people several times including Tripoli in August of last year. Of course, Haftar would claim he was attacking terrorist rebels. This is the same claim that Gadaffi made. Haftar also bombed a Tripoli airport before peace talks and on one occasion representatives from the GNC were a day late for the talks as a result. He also bombed Benghazi, probably with the help of Egyptian planes. Haftar has often said he rejects the LPA., will not negotiate with the armed forces of the GNC since they are Islamist terrorists, and he will not agree to a ceasefire with them. Yet the UN has never sanctioned him.
The EU finally decided they had enough of Haftar and did name Haftar and his air force chief as individuals to be sanctioned. This was announced but the media did not follow up on the issue and it seems almost certain that he was not sanctioned. His punishment was to be offered support by Egypt, the UAE, and the Arab League. He also signed a military agreement with Jordan. Haftar called the threat of sanctions meaningless. If the UN were serious about sanctions they would have recommended sanctions not only against Haftar but against al-Thinni and even Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, since she and al-Thinni both took actions that the UN specifically warned would interfere with the peace process.
Leon constantly set deadlines that have been passed and the dialogue process went on. He gave orders that the LPA should be voted on some time ago. Neither parliament complied. We will see what happens today in the HoR.
There is no report on when or if the GNC will vote on the draft. There is division among supporters of the GNC with many opposed to the LPA but others including the municipality of Misrata in favor. However, the important militia group from Misrata, Libya Shield, has rejected the LPA along with Haftar. Given that neither armed forces of the GNC or the HoR have accepted the deal it is not clear how it could ever be enforced unless the UN thinks it can sanction Haftar and his GNC opponents. The pro-HoR Libya Herald says of the situation as of Sunday:
The House of Representatives is due to reconvene tomorrow in Tobruk to continue its debate on the Accord, with strong indications that it is likely to once again delay a decision.The remnant GNC has also refused to back the deal even though, unlike the HoR, its assent is not essential.
Leon has said several times that both parliaments need to approve the deal. This is what the GNC understands as well. If the deal goes ahead with only one parliament approving, this would ensure a continuation of civil war. The HoR may believe it would have the complete support of the international community against the GNC and its militia if this should happen. While a number of HoR members say they support the LPA, they also refuse to have Haftar removed from his position. But the draft LPA assigns the function of commander-in-chief of the Libyan Army to senior members of the GNA not Haftar. The HoR may insist all appointments made by the HoR are to be recognized as valid in the LPA but there is a proviso that they not conflict with the terms of the agreement. The GNC and many others will not agree to any government in which Haftar is head of the armed forces yet this is what even those who supposedly support the LPA demand: A number of members of the House of Representatives, including Essa Al-Araibi and HoR spokesman Faraj Buhashim, have said that they will agree to the government leadership proposals from UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon. However, they will not accept the removal of General Khalifa Hafter under any conditions.There seems almost no hope of a successful solution to conflict between the two rival governments at this point. As long as Haftar is not sidelined the GNC will not sign on to the LPA. The HoR probably does not have the power to sideline him. Haftar has recently stopped his own prime minister from leaving Libya twice. It should be evident that Haftar controls the HoR and not vice versa.

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