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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Saudis may be attempting to reconcile competing parties in Libya

There appear to be a number of efforts to bring about a reconciliation between the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR).

Saudi Arabia is said to be trying hard at the diplomatic and security level to develop a plan for the comprehensive reconciiation of the GNA and the HoR, no doubt also dealing with relationship of the GNA with General Khalifa Haftar, commander-in-chief, of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the HoR. The Saudis are planning a meeting after Eid celebrations around the fifth of July, the end of Ramadan. Sources told the Libyan Express: “Saudi government is opening contact channels with the biggest Libyan tribes in all of the country’s regions because it knows that he tribes in Libya can influence the political track in it.” According to the sources, many political parties both in the HoR and the GNA, and elders in both east and west welcomed the Saudi efforts and would concur with them. The sources also said that GNA Prime Minister Faiez Serraj also hailed the efforts to hold the meeting and said that he would be attending the meeting. However, I could find only one report about the meeting. So far there has been no announcement about it from the GNA itself or any other news outlet than the Libya Express.
Meanwhile there are other moves that appear related to bringing Haftar on side to support the GNA. Khalifa Haftar has arrived in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's President Sisi is a strong supporter of Haftar. Media sources said Haftar came to Egypt with a nine-member military delegation on a private jet. He was to discuss the latest situation in Libya. Haftar is expected to meet with a Russian delegation while he is in Cairo.
It appears that the UN and the GNA are desperate to have the armed forces of Libya under a unified command. To achieve this, they need the co-operation of Haftar and the Libyan National Army. Haftar has suddenly changed his mind about working with some western militias loyal to the GNA as noted in a recent article. Faiez Serraj said recently: "We are convinced that the only way to end this organisation (IS) is through a united military command that brings together all Libyans from every region of the country." Serraj makes this claim just as the remnants of the Islamic State are surrounded in their stronghold Sirte and could very well be over-run in the next few days. This was all done with no unity with Haftar who has done nothing to help with the offensive against Sirte in spite of announcing more than three weeks ago he was going to liberate Sirte. Serraj noted that the forces on the offensive, mainly Misrata militia were receiving limited assistance from foreign countries. He no doubt intended to reference special forces of the UK and the US. However, foreign special forces are also providing help to Haftar in Benghazi, in spite of the fact that those forces are not associated with the UN-recognized government.
There is supposed to be a meeting of the HoR in Tobruk tomorrow to vote confidence in the GNA. The last two Mondays the HoR also met to vote but there was never a quorum. However a tweet from the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) by Martin Kobler, the Special Representatives of the Secretary-General was optimistic:"Martin Kobler: I'll be in tobruk tomorrow to encourage everyone to vote on the Govt of National Accord #GNA". If there is no vote at the meeting perhaps the next advance will be at the meeting with the Saudis in July.


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