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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

European Union to sanction 3 officials of rival Libyan governments

The European Union (EU) has agreed to sanction three Libyan leaders who oppose the Government of National Accord (GNA). The EU has been hesitating for months over fears of derailing peace efforts.

Now the GNA has simply declared that it is the sole legitimate government and will move to Tripoli despite no formal approval by the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR). The "peace process" apparently no long needs the vote of confidence by the HoR, as required by the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). There has been no amendment to the Constitutional Declaration of 2011, so the GNA has no legal basis in the constitution. What we have is an exercise in extra-legal power politics. There is at least one fig leaf, the letter of support by an alleged majority of the HoR members, regarded as equivalent to a green light to go ahead by the UN and GNA. There is no need now to worry about disrupting passage of the GNA through the HoR since the powers that count have already accepted the GNA without the vote.
The sanctions will likely involve travel bans and asset freezes and should be imposed in the next few days. The sanctions are justified under the terms of UN Security resolution supporting the LPA. The UN has tried itself to impose sanctions earlier but they did not pass the Security Council. The UN then tried to impose sanctions through the EU. The EU was to sanction Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), but Haftar claimed rightly that they were meaningless. Reuters' account of these new sanctions somehow thinks these prior sanctions should not be mentioned. The Haftar sanctions disappeared off the radar of news media. Haftar has many times snubbed his nose at the UN peace process and tried to stop it but he seemsuntouchable. He has arguably been a key "spoiler" in the peace process. He appears to have considerable control over what the HoR and the premier Abdullah al-Thinni do or don't do.
Reuters says: The sanctions deal marks a breakthrough for France, which hopes the measures will help accelerate the formation of a government and avoid Libya slipping fully into the hands of Islamic State militants.The Islamic State has only a small part of Libya and there is little chance Libya could fall into the hands of the Islamic State. This is not reporting, it is fear-mongering.
A senior diplomat said the sanctions had been agreed but the legal text to support them still had to be drawn up. The diplomat said he expected that no government would object to the proceedings, Three men are to be subject to the sanctions. Nouri Abusahmain is the president of the General National Congress in Tripoli and Khalifa al-Ghwell is prime minister of the GNC. Both are sanctioned probably because the GNC does not support the LPA or GNC as it is. They are also blocking travel of UN officials into Tripoli to set up the GNA. Somewhat surprisingly, Aquilah Saleh, the president of the HoR, is also sanctioned. He was originally a hard liner but supposedly came to support the GNA. Now he is apparently opposing it or at least did not facilitate the passing of the GNA through the HoR. The HoR is the legislative body of the GNA and also must approve some of the decisions of the Presidency Council. To sanction the head of the GNA legislature is at the least a bit odd and certainly may influence the attitude of the HoR to decisions it has to approve.
Although there are dire humanitarian needs throughout Libya especially for medical supplies, it would seem that these needs are one of the carrots used to get support for the GNA. In January EU foreign ministers promised 100 million euros or $108 million in immediate aid once the GNA is formed. Sanctions are the sticks. The result may be hardening of positions and further division.


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