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Sunday, September 18, 2016

UN envoy's statement to the UN security council on the situation in Libya

Martin Kobler, the UN envoy to Libya, briefed the UN Security Council today on the situation in Libya after forces of General Khalifa Haftar seized four oil ports from the Petroleum Forces Guard (PFG).

After the meeting Kobler issued a statement on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) website. The statement has much more information and detail than many of Kobler's statements. Kobler said that he wanted to brief the council on four points: the worrying security situation; the political momentum created by the recent decision of the House of Representatives; the need for national reconciliation; and the failing economy.
For once, Kobler actually mentions Haftar: On the eve of Eid Al Adha, the fragile peace in Libya’s Oil Crescent has suffered a fierce blow when units of the Libyan National Army under the command of General Khalifa Haftar attacked the oil terminals and ports in the Oil Crescent area. This area was under the control of forces loyal to the Presidency Council. I was concerned that this might happen. This development will further hinder oil exports, deprive Libya of its only source of income, and increase the division of the country. This has to stop.Kobler said he was concerned these attacks might happen. Yet he did nothing to stop them. He must have known as well that tribal leaders were urging LFG fighters to not resist. The GNA is shown to be weak and powerless to prevent Haftar from taking control of key resources from the GNA. Kobler says that Haftar's action has to stop. It has. He won. The GNA must now deal with him.
Kobler claims that the oil belongs to all Libyans and must be exported legally under the authority of the Presidency Council (PC) Up until now Haftar has not accepted the authority of the PC. Perhaps Haftar will deal with the Tripoli NOC but so far he has insisted that the Bayda NOC was the only legitimate NOC.
Kobler calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities. This means that Haftar has won, as his seizure of the ports is accepted. All the rhetoric about disturbing the peace, and creating greater division, does not mean that Kobler has any intention of restoring the ports to the control of GNA. Haftar now will decide whether the terms of export are acceptable or not. He is in the same situation as Jadhran the head of the PFG used to be. Oil exports are subject to terms which Haftar must approve.
At first some statements from the GNA suggested that there would be a counterattack. A recent tweet claims: "Pres Council should refrain from launching offensive to recapture terminals and instead engage in negotiations with LNA." The PC has also accepted Haftar's occupation of the ports as a given.
Kobler mentions SC resolution 2259 that recognizes the PC and GNA as the sole executive authority in Libya. The fact is that the oil ports are now occupied by Haftar's forces and he does not recognize the PC or GNA. Kobler just accepted the change from the area being controlled by the GNA and forces loyal to it, to a situation where it is controlled by a person who recognizes a rival government that of the HoR. Kobler not only accepts that situation but demands that no one use force to change it. The situation is to be solved through dialogue. That is, Kobler is recommending that the GNA and Tripoli NOC negotiate with what is in effect a parallel government and parallel military. According to SC resolutions this is to be avoided. To sanction negotiations is to recognize that the GNA and its NOC while the sole legitimate powers must recognize the HoR and Haftar as legitimate partners in the "dialogue". It shows the weakness of the GNA and the emptiness of UN rhetoric. Kobler even mentions that he tried a number of times to have a dialogue with Haftar but to no avail.
Kobler notes the nomination of commanders of the Presidential Guard, but this is, as he says, just a first step in bringing security units under the authority of the PC. Militias are still regularly clashing, with the GNA seemingly powerless to do anything about it. He noted that forces from all areas of Libya needed to agree on a unified command with the PC as the Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army. How does he expect this to happen when he knows Kobler is adamantly opposed to the PC as the supreme commander?
I will deal with only the first two issues covered by Kobler. On the second issue, political developments, Kobler speaks of the momentum created when the HoR on August 22nd soundly defeated a motion of confidence in the GNA. Rather than being a disastrous defeat that in effect made the GNA illegitimate, Kobler sees it as an opportunity for the PC to seek again the endorsement of the HoR. It will be the third time. No mention that the deadline for submission of names for the new cabinet of 8 ministers rather than 14 is long passed, or that this will be third attempt at a vote of confidence. Kobler mentions the two-days of meetings in Tunis with dialogue members. He fails to mention that nothing seems to have been achieved. so little, that a final statement was not even made apparently. He says there is no alternative to the Libyan Political Agreement which he says remains the only way forward for the Libyan transition.
Kobler welcomed back the two boycotting members and urged the PC to come up with a revised list of government ministers. He urged that 30 percent of the ministers be women. He also urged that the HoR meet with all its members to discuss the Constitutional amendment and to vote confidence in the GNA. He suggested as well that there be Libyan and international observers of the process of voting. No deadline set. The PC is already divided and recent events will no doubt make the divisions worse. The PC has already had weeks to choose new ministers and has come up with nothing. It is unlikely that situation will change. All of Kobler's address is worth reading but this article is already long enough.

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