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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Libyan UN envoy, Martin Kobler, claims support for unity government is crumbling

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) in Libya, Martin Kobler, told the Swiss Neue Zuercher Zeitung support for the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) is crumbling amid increasing power outages and a falling currency.

There are also still shortages of cash in spite of shipments of new bills both from the UK and Russia. There is an agreement to circulate the notes throughout the country although the UK notes are authorized by the Tripoli-based Libyan Central Bank (LCB) loyal to the Government of National Accord while the Russian-printed notes were authorized by the rival eastern-based LCB. In spite of the difficulties, Kobler said there was no alternative to backing the GNA even though he claimed it had forfeited some of its initial popularity. It is not clear if it ever had that much initial popularity although Kobler is no doubt right that it has less popularity now.
In response to a question about claiming that 95 percent of Libyans backed GNA PM Faiez Serraj, Kobler said:"That was in April. There was a lot of good will then for the unity government. It has lost some support in the meantime. At the time Tripoli had 20 hours of electricity a day, now it is 12 ... In April people had to pay 3.5 dinars for a dollar. Today it is 5 dinars. That is devastating for an import-oriented economy. Support is crumbling."Kobler also noted that the US Operation Odyssey Lightning could not alone defeat the Islamic State in Sirte but it would be won by ground troops. The IS is already surrounded and just recently lost its headquarters. Special forces from the UK, the US and perhaps other countries are helping out in the ground battle. One bright spot in Libya is that the Islamic State will soon hold no territory in Libya. A spokesperson for the forces General Mohamed Ghassri said: "The battle for Sirte has reached its final phase, after the successful offensive by our heroes."
Kobler has been trying without success to have the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) vote confidence in the GNA and also amend the constitutional declaration of 2011 to incorporate the GNA but to no avail. The meetings have either lacked a quorum or been disrupted with no vote. Until there is some resolution of the status of General Khalifa Haftar acceptable to him and his supporters no vote is likely and the GNA will be without a legislature. On the motion passing, the HoR would become the legislature of the GNA according to the Libyan Political Agreement. As it is now the Presidential Council serves as commander in chief of the armed forces. This is not acceptable to Haftar who serves as commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the government of the HoR.
Two members of the Presidency Council( PC) of the GNA are boycotting meetings for months. The PC has finally given them a week to return or be replaced as noted in a recent tweet: "Presidential Council gives one week deadline to 2 boy-cotters to join or be replaced by upcoming meeting of Political Dialogue (end of month)". One of the boy-cotters tweeted back: " Ali Gitrani: I will not return to the #GNA PC until it is endorsed by the #HoR #Newsroom ".


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