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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Options for the UN if there is no vote of confidence in the GNA

The UN and the international community have been constantly urging the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk to vote confidence in the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA).

The HoR has already twice failed to vote on the GNA and just this week also failed a third time as there was no quorum, according to a recent tweet.
An article by Mohamed Eljarh sets out some of the alternatives facing the UN and Libya in order to move the peace process forward. Eljarh is a Non-resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Eljarh begins his article by discussing the session of the UN Security Council on February 2, where Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), discussed the situation in Libya. He notes that the discussion happened as the chances of success of the UN-led peace plan were minimal, as it was unable to implement the agreement signed by select members of the Libya Dialogue in Skhirat, Morocco, on December 17 last year: Although the majority of Libya’s stakeholders signed on to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) under intense international pressure, the agreement lacks the political will and commitment from the factions who signed on to it.Eljarh does not produce evidence to show the majority of Libya's stakeholders signed the LPA. It is simply repetition of the almost "official" narrative. He fails to mention that none of the signers from the HoR or rival General National Council (GNC) were authorized to sign. Indeed, Makzhoum who signed for the GNC, left the negotiating team in August. Later, without authorization from the GNC, he listed the names of the members of the State Council. Neither the HoR nor the GNC approved the LPA but apparently they are among the minority of stakeholders. The factions did not sign on to the dialogue but members of the factions selected by the UN because they approved the LPA. The original dialogue was meant to create a GNA approved by both parliaments but Kobler ended up doing an end run around that basic aim and ended up with an LPA that was a non-agreement. Everyone cheered and approved the new UN project including the UNSC.
Eljarh remarks that Kobler pointed out the problems he faced in Libya including problems traveling to Tripoli and opposition to the LPA and GNA in Tobruk. Just yesterday three members of the UN temporary security committee were arrested at Mitiga airport in Tripoli, indicating Kobler has still not managed to work out security arrangements with Tripoli authorities. The GNC does not recognize the GNA. With the failure of the HoR to vote on Monday on the GNA, as Eljarh puts it:Supporters of the new government, the pro-LPA camp, and the United Nations seem at a loss on how to move beyond the current deadlock.
Eljarh claims that disruption by opponents prevented a Feb. 24 vote in the HoR and the Monday meeting could not vote because of the lack of a quorum. He says there was political pressure for pro-GNA members not to attend. Why does this pressure appear to be so successful? As Eljarh notes, 97 members of the HoR issued a statement in favor of the GNA. There must be plenty of pressure from Kobler and others to attend and vote. Originally 100 members were alleged to have signed the statement, but three claimed they did not sign. Eljarh does not mention this fraud. Eljarh describes the opposition to GNA approval:The endorsement faces increasing opposition by a group of parliamentarians who remain loyal to the Libyan National Army (LNA) and its leader General Khalifa Haftar. Two of the nine-member Presidential Council—the executive body that would lead the new government under the terms of the political agreement—Ali al-Qatrani (the LNA’s candidate in the council) and Omar al-Aswad (Zintan’s representative) have aligned with the anti-GNA parliamentarians, accusing the council of incompetence and undermining the military. They have called for a return to the original three-member composition made up of a prime minister and two deputies representing Libya’s three historical regions (Cyrenaica, Fezzan, and Tripolitania).The opponents say the increased numbers in the Presidential Council has led to infighting and fragmentation.
As Eljarh notes, Kobler has threatened to reconvene the Polltical Dialogue if the HoR does not vote on the GNA this week. It appears there will be no vote. According to Eljarh, the dialogue committed will reconvene in Tunis on March 10. Notice that these discussions still are not happening in Libya. Even though the failure to pass the LPA may start the whole process over again, this did not deter the HoR members from failing to carry out UN orders. Eljarh next considers what options the UN has in this situation.
The first option Eljarh describes as follows: "... the political dialogue committee would reconvene on March 10 by invitation from the UN envoy. The committee would then consider amending the political agreement and changing the composition of the Presidential Council from a Prime Minister, five deputies, and three ministers of state to the original Prime Minister and two deputy composition—a key change on which the opposition in the House of Representatives has conditioned its approval of the GNA cabinet. Such a change would open the door to replacing Prime Minister Faeiz Serraj and possibly his two deputies and undoubtedly anger Misratans over the loss of its only deputy in the Presidential Council, Ahmed Meitig."
While it is possible Serraj and Meitig lose their positions, it is not clear why they would given the difficulties this would produce, as Eljarh himself notes. Also, Serraj has already had considerable international exposure as a PM-designate. A different problem is that even with such an amendment, the LPA might not pass the HoR. No one seems to talk of Section 8, which the HoR wants deleted because it would give the job of commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army to the Presidency Council and take it away from General Khalifa Haftar. Is it to remain?
Eljarh's second option is to drop the requirement that the HoR approve the GNA cabinet. The approval could come from the dialogue committee. Eljarh does not say who is on the dialogue committee. Is it composed of whoever from the dialogue the UN invites? The UN could do the same thing as for the original LPA — just invite those who will vote for what the UN wants. But maybe that is not possible. Eljarh remarks: This change would require altering the agreement’s text to introduce this new mechanism, followed by a UNSC resolution to endorse the GNA cabinet, granting it international recognition and control over the central bank, Libya’s assets abroad, the Libyan Investment Authority, and the National Oil Corporation. However, such an option risks installing a government in perpetual exile, with no control or authority in eastern Libya or over the capital Tripoli.
What this is all about is the UN getting control of Libyan finances so it can use them to buy support and starve opposition governments of their finances. The GNC will not stand for this and the HoR might not either. If the GNA remains in exile it is hard to see how it could gain control of the central bank, or National Oil Corporation. Kobler, following the LPA, is anxious that the GNA be in Tripoli.
There is also the possibility of an option not directly involving the UN and that would be to pursue the Libya-Libya dialogue. However, the UN regards this process as inimical to development of the type of GNA it wants to see. They have regarded the Libya-Libya group as "spoilers." Eljarh thinks this dialogue could be strengthened if it gained the support of key external players. However, the group has always claimed it does not want foreign interference.
A final option is to support the advance of the Libyan National Army after its success in Benghazi. As Eljarh puts it:
 If the army’s leadership decides not stop in Benghazi, move westward to the Libyan oil terminals, and eventually seize Sirte, these developments would mean gradual takeover by the Libyan National Army in eastern Libya as it becomes more popular in the eyes of its people. Preparations for such moves are already underway. This could potentially lead to the institutionalization of Libya’s partition between two major power centers: one in the east dominated by the LNA and one in the west dominated by a number of powerful groups from the cities of Misrata, Zintan, and political Islamist groups in Tripoli.This could possibly come to be. However, there are at least two problems. The Guards of the oil facilities are headed by an opponent of Haftar, Ibrahim al-Jadran. Sirte and nearby IS controlled areas are surrounded by territory controlled by the GNC and there might be considerable resistance to Haftar taking over Sirte. Eljarh remarks that all of the options have problems but he has done a good job in laying out some of the possibilities to be pursued in the near future.


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