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Saturday, November 21, 2015

New UN Special Envoy to Libya plans to restart dialogue talks

This is the first day--November 18-- on the job for veteran German diplomat Martin Kobler as Special Envoy from the UN to Libya. Kobler takes over from Bernardino Leon, who leaves under a cloud.
Leon accepted a high-paying job in the UAE back in June while he was acting as a mediator in charge of dialogue talks between the two rival LIbyan governments. One government is the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) located in Tobruk, and the other is the General National Congress(GNC) located in the west of Libya in the capital Tripoli. The UAE strongly favours the HoR government and the commander of its armed forces, Khalifa Haftar. Emails leaked to the Guardian show Leon took directions from and communicated with officials from the UAE. Leon said he intended to weaken and discredit the GNC and increase the power of the HoR. Neither Leon nor the UN have admitted there was any conflict of interest.
Leon was able to end up with a Libya Political Agreement(LPA) that includes a Government of National Accord(GNA) but neither parliament voted on the LPA in spite of pressure from Leon, the UN security council, and the international community. The GNC wants amendments to the LPA. Leon said that was impossible and then amended it himself. The HoR issued a statement rejecting the LPA although a number of members disassociated themselves from that statement. The HoR keeps postponing votes on the LPA. This week the HoR will not meet to vote on the LPA since the president, Ageela Salah, is off to a UNESCO meeting.
Kobler worked in the past, in UN missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Iraq as well. Kobler said he will restart talks with the rival Libyan factions in order to deal with outstanding issues related to the GNA or unity government. Kobler stressed that there should be continuity of the dialogue process and he would build on what Leon had achieved.
The announcement of Kobler's appointment appeared recently on the UNSMIL website and was discussed in a recent DJ article. Today Kobler has his own release on his immediate plans.
As part of continuing the dialogue process, Kobler indicated, within the next few days:I will listen to the members of the political dialogue and the proposed Presidency Council as well as various other Libyan partners to address and finalise the remaining small number of outstanding issues.Why would he talk to the "proposed Presidency Council"? These people have no status at all except as proposed by the UN. Both sides in the conflict have rejected many of the names. This process gets off on the wrong foot. Many will feel the UN and the international community are trying to ram an LPA down their throat to please the UN bosses in the international community who want a unity government so they can intervene in Libya with the blessing of a unity government.
Kobler then says he wants to build on the momentum to bring about an endorsement of the Libyan Political Agreement in the immediate future. What momentum? The process was stalled with the UN security council, among others, fruitlessly pressing the parties to sign on to the LPA. Perhaps Kobler should read the article by Abubakr Buera who claims Leon was wrong to press for a vote and agreement before conditions made it possible to pass the LPA. He considers voting on an LPA in the HoR at present will likely divide Libya into two if passed. Kobler needs realize that in the HoR, Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the armed forces, rejects the present draft and no doubt any draft that does not leave him as commander in chief. If the HoR were to pass an LPA that took away his job, there could very well be a military coup. How would Kobler propose to prevent that?
Perhaps, as some of the parties suggest, there should be meetings of various Libyan parties independently of the UN. In a number of areas, militia groups in the west of Libya have managed to forge agreements that involved ceasefires, providing at least a degree of security in areas formerly subject to constant clashes. Jason Pack recently wrote an article claiming Libya needs to be liberated from the UN.
Kobler says he has as another priority — the discussion of security-related issues with the various Libyan actors. This is very vague. Continuing what I call the UN non-speak protocol, Kobler gives as little information as possible. Of course there is no mention of the Leon scandal or the obvious lack of impartiality evident in the process while Leon was in charge. Kobler's conclusion follows a typical UN diplomatic template:The work of the United Nations will always be guided by the relevant Security Council resolutions and by the long-standing principles of impartiality, and upholding Libya’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.


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