Saturday, September 24, 2016

Meetings in Cairo to discuss plans for a new unity government

Faiez Serraj, who is the Prime Minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) is meeting in Cairo with Ageelah Saleh, president of the rival House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk.

Reportedly, the two are attempting to come up with a government lineup that is acceptable to GNA and HoR. Saleh, who is sanctioned by the EU and US for obstructing the vote of confidence in the LPA, wants a down-sized government acceptable to each side. The HoR had earlier rejected a government with 30 ministers. On August 22 they rejected a government of 17 ministers and asked that the GNA return with a government with only 8 ministers. The deadline given for the presentation has long passed. No one even bothers to mention this anymore.
According to Ramzi Ramieh, a Libyan military analyst, the talks are centered on building a tightly knit government of under a dozen people. Ramieh said that Saleh and Serraj were trying to form a government with a three-member defense council, including Haftar, and a three-member presidential council (PC), "along with representatives of Serraj and PM of the HoR Al-Thinni". It is not clear how this can be reconciled with the present LPA which makes no mention of a defense council as I recall and which assigns the function of commander in chief to the PC. No mention as to whether Haftar has agreed to this. There are conflicting reports about what is happening. Certainly many in the present PC, GNA, and State Council will refuse to serve in a government that gives a prominent role to Haftar. While Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General is busy trying to devise schemes to accommodate Hafter within the GNA and form a unified GNA, Haftar is busy strengthening his power by seizing four oil ports and making GNA look weaker and less effective day by day. Kobler who said that Haftar's seizure of the ports would make exports more difficult is now praising the renewed exports of oil. In contrast to the statement of six nations including the U.S. and U.K. who condemned the seizure and demanded that the forces withdraw, Egyptian Foreign Minister Choukri said: “Egypt supports the legitimacy and actions of the Libyan army to maintain security in the country.” Another source confirms Shoukry's statement: "Egypt fully supports the Libyan army's moves to maintain security and stability of Libya and to secure its oil wealth,"
The Libya Herald reports that little information has been revealed about the talks between Serraj and Saleh. One obvious topic is the size and composition of the new cabinet that the HoR long ago requested be presented for a vote of confidence. However, the Herald notes that Egyptian media are suggesting that they are also talking of an Armed Forces Supreme Council. This must be the three member defense council as mentioned in the previous report, which was from the VOA.
The Herald version has five members: Serraj, Ahmed Maetig, Saleh, Khalifa Haftar, Ali Gatrani. The Herald points out that there is no such body mentioned in the LPA and that it is inconsistent with article 8 that make the PC, commander in chief. In a tweet with an accompanying photo Kobler says: "Open and frank exchange of views w/ HoR president #Agila & PC Member #Qatrani on the way forward in framework of LPA." Kobler has insisted that Haftar play a role in the GNA government even though many in the government reject his playing any role. Meanwhile, Haftar continues consolidating his power and gaining support. He may even decide to carry onOperation Dignity right within Tripoli the seat of the GNA government by invading the city using militia allies in the area. Ironic, that Saleh, sanctioned by both EU and U.S. is a key negotiator in these meetings.

No comments: