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Thursday, February 4, 2016

UN Special Envoy to Libya meets with General Khalifa Haftar seeking a deal to approve GNA

The internationally-recognized Libyan government, the House of Representatives (HoR) wants guarantees that General Khalifa Haftar, the commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) keep his job before they will vote confidence in the GNA.

The GNA is the UN-brokered Government of National Accord. The GNA results from the Libyan Political Agreemen t(LPA) signed on December 17 by members of the Libyan Political Dialogue, a group set up to negotiate a peace agreement between the two rival governments. Besides the HoR there is a rival General National Congress (GNC) located in Tripoli in the west, while the HoR is in the east in Tobruk. Neither of the two parliaments agreed to a draft LPA. Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Libya, gathered together members of the Dialogue who supported the UN draft LPA including some members of the GNC and HoR and had them sign the draft. These members were not authorized to sign by their respective parliaments. The agreement immediately attracted international support including a resolution in the UN Security Council.
The GNA wastwo days past the deadline before it was announced. Four meetings of the HoR were held in which there was no quorum and hence no vote of confidence in the GNA. When a vote finally was held, the GNA was soundly rejected as having too large a cabinet. The Presidency Council of the GNA is to present a new smaller list of cabinet names within 10 days. The LPA was approved but only if section 8 of the LPA is deleted. Section 8 gives the power of commander in chief to the Presidency Council, not Khalifa Haftar. Actually, there is an addition to this section in the additional provisions which gave the power of commander in chief of the LNA to the Presidency Council on December 17 the date of the LPA signing. Everyone dutifully ignores this section and it has been violated for over a month now.
Somehow a deal must be made for Haftar to relinquish his position. Kobler points out that there can be no amendments to the LPA until after the GNA term has begun. This means the HoR has to pass the LPA as it is before any attempt to amend it. However, the HoR is unlikely to approve the GNA without an agreement that section 8 will not come into force. The GNC members who signed the LPA will never agree to Haftar being commander in chief of the LNA.
No doubt in an attempt to arrange some type of deal the Prime Minister-designate of the GNA. Faiez Serraj, flew to Haftar's headquarter in Marj for talks with Haftar. No communique was issued after the talks. Kobler had met with Haftar some time ago as well. Serraj brought along two of his deputy ministers including Ali Gatrani who earlier had suspended his membership in the GNA. Haftar had his close ally Air Force commander Saqr Geroushi and the army chief of staff Major-General Abdul Nazhuri with him. After the talks, Serraj and his party flew back to Tunis where the Presidency Council is working on a new list of cabinet members.
The pro-GNC Libya Observer also reports on the Serraj meeting with Haftar. The Observer claims the meeting angered Abdul-Rahman Al-Swalhi a GNC member who is in favor of the GNA. He demanded Serraj submit his resignation for meeting Haftar, whom Al-Swalhi called a war criminal. Haftar was part of Gadaffi's original coup and a senior commander in his armed forces until Gadaffi abandoned him after he was imprisoned in Chad with many of his troops in a failed war.In 1987, he became a prisoner of war during the war against Chad. While held prisoner, he and his fellow officers formed a group hoping to overthrow Gaddafi. He was released around 1990 in a deal with the United States government and spent nearly two decades in the United States, gaining U.S. citizenship.
Al Swahili said the LPA would collapse if its articles such as article 8 were violated. The LPA has been violated many times already and the LPA still exists but Al-Swahili is probably correct that if Hafter remains as commander-in-chief of the LNA, then the GNA will collapse.
Another critic of the meeting of Serraj with Haftar was Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Mietig from Misrata. Mietig said on his official Facebook account: "We have been in touch with Mr. Fayaz Sirrja until late at night but he did not inform us of his intention to conduct this visit, thus this visit does not represent the Presidency Council." Mietig also made it clear that article 8 cannot be frozen or deleted in any way. If this happened it would deepen divisions within the already fragmented Presidency Council. He also said the LPA is in force and that the Presidency Council is not concerned with the abolition of article 8. Mietig and all the other GNA members apparently didn't notice that section 8 in the additions section of the LPA took away Haftar's job on December 17. I can't believe the GNC members within the GNA could be that incompetent that they did not even bother to read what is in the LPA they signed. They must have been assured that when the HoR had approved the GNA Haftar would at that time lose his job as was in the original section 8 while section 8 in the additional provision of the LPA take away his job back on December 17th:The Additional Provisions section 8 reads in part: Article (8)All powers of the senior military, civil and security posts stipulated in the Libyan legislations and laws in force shall be transferred to the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers immediately
upon signing this Agreement. .
In a recent article, I indicated the almost hopeless dilemma that the UN and the GNA face, the Libya Observer concurs: No one can imagine how the UNSMIL, the sponsor of Skhirat agreement, would settle Khalifa Hafter's dilemma. Last week, Tobruk Parliament rejected the proposed cabinet of UN-imposed government and requested that article 8 of the political agreement must be deleted in order to give the cabinet a vote of confidence. Pro-Khalifa Haftar tribes in the east also declared Haftar red line and confirmed that his military post is non-negotiable.On the other hand, anti-Khalifa Haftar members of the Presidency Council, and others from the GNC camp who signed Skhirat agreement along with agreement supporters in Misrata and Tripoli, are demanding that Haftar must be out; otherwise, the political agreement would not see the light.
Meanwhile, the Saudi newspaper Alyaum said that it had been trying to obtain an interview with Haftar for six months. Haftar claimed he would liberate Benghazi within days but he has been saying that for months if not years. He began Operation Dignity back in May of 2014 with attacks on Islamist bases in Benghazi. Some are still there and much of the city is in ruins from the battle. After Benghazi, Haftar will take Sirte and then liberate Misrata and the rest of the west held by GNC forces. Haftar said that the Serraj must support the army he is leading and must not enlist the help of foreign powers. If the Serraj government did not do this, then he would fight it just as he fights terrorism. Haftar also criticized the GNA for appointing Al-Mahdi Al-Burghati as defense minister, even though he is one of the senior leaders of the Operation Dignity that Haftar heads and initiated. This shows splits even within those who formerly supported Haftar. In spite of supposedly rejecting any foreign intervention Haftar welcomes any kind of Egyptian intervention. It would seem that Haftar must have approved as well the presence of a number of foreign special forces in eastern Libya. He has made no complaint about them. Stay tuned, as Haftar said to the paper: “I promise all those who support me that a very pleasing surprise awaits them in the coming days.” Is the fix in? If it is, and Haftar is to remain as commander of the LNA, the GNA will need to somehow manage without any contingent from the GNC.

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