Saturday, May 21, 2016

Official statement after Vienna meeting on Libya

The Joint Communique issued after the Ministerial Meeting in Vienna has been published by a number of sources including the U.S. Department of State.

The statement starts out by welcoming Faiez el-Serraj, the prime minister of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) and commending him for his leadership in moving the GNA to Libya which is said to be a turning point in the Libyan political process. It is a turning point in that it represents a concerted attempt to ensure that the wishes of many countries to create just one unified administration are met. The GNA can ask for foreign intervention to fight the Islamic State and help solve the problem of waves of immigrants using Libya as a taking off point to cross the Mediterranean and enter Europe. It is not surprising that Italy co-hosted the meeting along with the United Sates.
The statement says: "We express our strong support for the Libyan people in maintaining the unity of Libya." Yet the GNA is taking actions that do the opposite. The GNA has claimed that under the LPA, it is the commander-in-chief of the Libyan armed forces. However, it knows that Khalifa Haftar claims this role and that he will keep the HoR from voting confidence in the GNA as long as it continues to claim this. Both those who would not vote confidence in the GNA and the majority that are claimed to support it are united in demanding section 8 of the LPA, which gives the function of commander in chief of the LNA to the Presidential Council (PC), be deleted. The actions of the GNA thus ensure that the HoR and Haftar will not join with the GNA and so that there will be no unity of Libya. The statement finds it impossible to mention the name Haftar, a key player in all this, but the subject is taboo.
There is not the slightest thought that perhaps the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in Skhirat on December 17 might not be workable. There is no mention of the fact that two members of the nine member PC group are boycotting meetings. There is no mention of any criticisms of the formation and operation of the State Council. The GNA is supported as the sole legitimate government of Libya. The statement notes: " We urge all parties to work constructively towards the completion of the transitional institutional framework, particularly by enabling the House of Representatives to fully carry out its role as outlined in the LPA." Right. The GNA could use a legislature, which is the HoR under the LPA. No mention of the sanctions against the head of the HoR Ageela Saleh. No mention of the attempt to avoid a full meeting of the HoR by having a meeting of just those who support the GNA in Ghadames. There are many important events that are just not mentionable or worth mentioning in such an important document.
The document encourages authorities of the GNA "to strengthen their outreach inside Libya and seek effective mechanisms for a dialogue to support reconciliation." Kobler said long ago after the LPA was signed that the time for dialogue is over. Even before the LPA was signed he said the LPA could not be amended. What is now called dialogue are carrots such as jobs and aid, and sticks such as sanctions and cutting off funds to those opposed to climbing aboard the GNA bandwagon. The communique commends the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General(SRSG), Martin Kobler.
Claiming that security is the key to Libya's future, the ministers salute the creation of the Presidential Guard by the PC to protect national institutions, members of the PC, and other members of the government. So far security is being provided by militias. Militias have always been regarded as part of the problem in Libya and were to be disarmed according to the LPA or integrated into the regular forces. The problem is that the largest regular forces in Libya are those of Haftar and the Libyan National Army.
The communique says:We recognize the necessity of enhanced coordination efforts between legitimate Libyan military and security forces and urge them to work quickly to implement a unified command in accordance with the LPA, to coordinate the fight against Da’esh and UN-designated terrorist groups in Libyan territory. Ensuring security and defending the country from terrorism must be the task of unified and strengthened national security forces. Libyans must fight against terrorism with unity.The group does not explain how there can be "enhanced coordination" between the forces of Haftar and the LNA and the GNA when the GNA is not recognized by Haftar or the HoR. There is already a unified command but it does not include Haftar. How can it include Haftar, commander in chief of the LNA, when the unified command is a function of the GNA which claims it is the commander in chief? Impossibility is no bar to positive rhetoric.
Part of the GNA's expected role is to ask for foreign intervention. As of now the intervention is not to be called "intervention" but military aid to fight against the Islamic State and other terrorists:The Government of National Accord has voiced its intention to submit appropriate arms embargo exemption requests to the UN Libya Sanctions Committee to procure necessary lethal arms and material to counter UN-designated terrorist groups and to combat Da’esh throughout the country. We will fully support these efforts while continuing to reinforce the UN arms embargo.The group must be pleased that the GNA is doing what they wanted it to do fight the Islamic State with their help. This position is bound to create outrage among the supporters of Haftar and his loyalists whose Operation Dignity is designed to fight terrorism. From their point of view by supporting the militias loyal to the GNA they will.be helping terrorists even if not those associated with the Islamic State. The group makes it clear that the GNA is "the sole legitimate recipient of international security assistance." However, this will not stop countries such as Egypt, the UAE, and perhaps others who were among the signatories of the agreement from providing arms for Haftar I expect.
The group also reiterated their commitment to cease support and official contact with "parallel institutions." Yet there have been positive meetings between rival officials from the two central banks and from the two oil companies. It is good that many officials pay no heed to the directions in this august document. Among the signatories of the document are countries such as Egypt, the League of Arab States, Jordan, and the UAE all of whom support Haftar, a position inconsistent with supporting the document they have signed.


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