Friday, December 4, 2015

New Libyan envoy lauds "progress" towards Libya Political Agreement even though neither of two rival regimes has signed on

Martin Kobler, The Special Representative of the Secretary-GeneraL(SRSG) and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL) finally issued an update on the progress of the Libya dialogue.
Kobler, along with many in the international community, have been pressuring both the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in the east in Tobruk and the General National Congress(GNC) based in Tripoli to sign on to the UN-brokered Libya Political Agreement(LPA) and to the names suggested by the UN for the Government of National Accord(GNA). The former UN Special Envoy, Bernardino Leon, had been doing precisely the same thing, without success, until he was replaced by Kobler on November 17. Kobler so far has achieved exactly the same result although, as with Leon, he gives an optimistic spin to events. In his release, Kobler says that he:.. welcomes the recent declaration by 92 members of the House of Representatives endorsing in principle the Libyan Political Agreement and the proposed Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord.
Astonishingly, Kobler does not see fit to mention that the HoR did meet to vote on the LPA the other day, but after a fight the meeting was suspended with no vote. Kobler claims the 92 HoR members endorsed the LPA "in principle." However, in fact they reject the LPA as it is at present and Kobler claims it cannot be changed. As the Libya Herald reported:However, they also effectively said that there could be no changes in the leadership of the Libyan National Army (LNA) (in other words General Khalifa Hafter) and that the names announced by former UN special envoy Bernardino Leon for the proposed presidency council needed modifications.
Keeping Haftar on as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army is a red line for the GNC and no doubt others as well. This would also contradict the present draft that has senior members of the GNA acting in the role of commander-in-chief, not Haftar. For Kobler to ignore such basic facts is astonishing unless perhaps he and the international community are planning to support Haftar and his fight against Islamists after not too long ago naming him as a subject of sanctions, a threat never carried out it seems:Two military leaders in the east of Libya, who say their forces will not respect any peace accord, also face sanctions. They are General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief of the eastern forces and air force head Fakir Jarroushi.Haftar has the support of Egypt, the UAE, the Arab League, and recently signed a military agreement with Jordan — all this as a new unity government is supposed to be coming in.
Kobler must know, as did Leon, that no political agreement is enforceable without a parallel military agreement between HoR forces and those of the GNC, mostly the Libya Dawn militia. Leon at times said he was carrying on a parallel military dialogue. He did manage to have a number of militia groups sign on to the LPA, but never the two main forces of the rival governments. He also managed to exploit a split between some Tripoli and Misrata militias by meeting separately with them in Misrata, without approval of the central command in Tripoli. Kobler says nothing about how he thinks he can have a unity government without an agreement among the military. Is it because he is hoping to get Haftar on board? That seems highly unlikely but it is odd that Kobler says nothing about this situation even though he claims security will be one of his main concerns.
Kobler also welcomes what he says are "calls by the majority of the members of the General National Congress to reach a positive conclusion to the dialogue process." Note that he does not speak of the GNC voting on or approving the LPA. Nor does he say when the GNC will meet to approve the LPA. The same is true of the HoR. Their meeting was suspended. When is it to resume?
Kobler makes no reference to the fact that the head of the GNC has demanded several times an explanation of the hiring of former envoy Bernardino Leon who left under a cloud because of a conflict of interest. As the Herald reports: Nuri Abu Sahmain, the president of the General National Congress (GNC), has again refused any contact with UNSMIL until he has an answer from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the conduct of former special envoy Bernardino Leon and his new job working for the UAE .
Nevertheless Kobler has the backing of numerous countries for a project that seems doomed even in the unlikely scenario that both parliaments do accept the LPA. This international cheerleading was evident during Leon's tenure with a meeting at the UN in New York with dialogue participants. It carries on:The Governments of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States welcome the statement of support for a Government of National Accord in Libya signed by the majority of House of Representatives (HoR) members on November 24 and note that a majority of General National Congress (GNC) members in Tripoli also stand firmly in support of a Government of National Accord.
Note that Egypt is not a signatory. No indication in the statement that neither of the two parliaments have voted to support the LPA or the GNC. The statement leaves out the "in principle" qualification the UN statement had. It is also mistaken in that the 92 members are not a majority, as there are 188 seats in the HoR. The signed statement was also issued before the meeting. It is not clear how many who signed even came to the meeting. The majority spoken of in the GNC may refer simply to the fact that they favour a GNA but not the one being presented by Kobler. In fact the GNC has made it crystal clear they want amendments. Kobler says no changes can be made to the text of even the names presented for the GNA. Kobler's report gives little evidence of progress and says nothing about what steps he now intends to take given that both parliaments again are refusing to even vote on the LPA.

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