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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Statement by UN envoy Martin Kobler on the situation in Libya

At the 9th Ministerial Meeting of Libyan Neighbouring Countries in Niamey, Niger, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, made a statement on the situation in Libya. This article comments on that statement.

The entire statement can be found on the United Nations Support Mission Libya (UNSMIL) website. Kobler describes the present situation in Libya as "delicate" and said that he was particularly worried about the situation in Tripoli saying:
Last Friday, members of the former government in Tripoli took over the premises of the High Council of State. I condemned this action. Attempts to create parallel institutions and obstruct the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement will generate further disorder and insecurity. This standoff should not escalate into violence. It has to end peacefully.Kobler earlier issued a separate statement condemning the action.
There is no mention of the fact that the Interior Ministry had ordered that those behind the coup should be arrested. No arrests have been made five days after the coup. The coup leaders still occupy the State Council headquarters now being protected with the help of the Presidential Guards who are supposed to protect the GNA. There are already parallel institutions, including the House of Representatives(HoR) government with its separate armed forces commanded by Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Kobler does not mention that he has been trying in vain to accomodate Haftar. Haftar's name is never mentioned in the statement. The Tripoli-based National Oil Co (NOC) negotiated with the parallel NOC based in Bayda to merge the two entities. It is not clear whether this is completed or whether some aspects are still being worked out. The agreement even as it is now requires the NOC to report to the HoR a parallel institution and also to move its headquarters to Benghazi, an area controlled by the HoR. Many countries such as Egypt, UAE, Jordan and Russia give lip service to supporting the GNA as the sole government but in practice provide support to the HoR government and military aid for Haftar.
Kobler notes that the lack of willingness of the HoR to vote confidence in the HoR furthered divisions within the country and that it voted against the GNA "after 6 months and 8 days". That was on August 22. Within 10 days the GNA was supposed to present a new cabinet with just eight ministers, but almost two months later there is still no sign of the list or any date set for a meeting of the HoR.
Kobler claims, quite correctly, that there has been a lack of progress in "implementation of the Libyan security architecture as envisaged by the Libyan Political Agreement." Indeed, this might be the appropriate point to mention the defection of the Presidential Guard but he does not. Nor does he give any guidance as to how there could be better progress but simply points out that security actors operate with autonomy "leading to insecurity and an inability to create the rule of law". This is a fair enough description but what is needed is some plan to create "a common leadership and consolidation of forces".
In a realistic assessment of the situation, which is in contrast to his usual more optimistic attitude, Kobler says that the Presidency Council has been unable to provide basic services and there is a worsening economic situation. Kobler says:Daily life for Libyans is becoming more difficult. With oil production well below its potential, inflation of the Libyan Dinar is at nearly 20 percent, food prices are increasing and the lack of liquidity mean that cash is becoming scarce.
What I find strange about this description is that oil production has actually almost doubled since the seizure of four oil ports by Haftar who allowed exports to resume. Production now stands at about 550,000 barrels a day. Usually, Kobler accentuates the positive. Perhaps Kobler is miffed that his deal with Ibrahim Jadhran the head, or former head, of the Petroleum Facilities Guard who controlled the ports, was sabotaged when Haftar seized the ports.
Kobler claims that there are three main problems that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, the fight against terrorism, illegal migration and organized crime. Some of these problems perhaps reflect priorities of other countries such as immigration for the EU and also terrorism. With the virtual defeat of the Islamic State in Sirte, terrorism appears not to be a huge problem for many Libyans. Perhaps Kobler's emphasis upon terrorism is meant in part to please Haftar who considers all those opposed to him as Islamist terrorists. The fight against terrorism is a huge issue in the west. Kobler mentions that there is progress against terrorism in Sirte and Benghazi. No mention of Haftar's siege and bombardment of Derna.
Kobler has not changed his continuing mantra that there is no military solution and that there is no alternative but forging ahead with the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). He ignores the fact that eastern Libya already has or is nearing a military solution.
Kobler says the PC has an opportunity to create a new Government of National Accord that can address the concerns of different stakeholders. No mention of the fact that Haftar and the HoR will not accept the LPA as it is, since it gives command of the armed forces to the PC rather than Haftar. Not a word as to how that problem can be solved. Kobler thinks this is a great opportunity to create consensus. How? Why does he think this? What is his evidence that a consensus can be achieved. Nothing appears to be happening so far.
To prevent resumption of conflict Kober suggests that regional powers can support the Presidency Council which he describes as newly unified. Kobler's solution to problems is often to find cheerleaders. He then meets with them for a photo op together with a statement of support. Kobler also wants international actors to work within security council resolutions recognizing the GNA as the sole legitimate government and no doubt obeying the arms embargo. It is unlikely that those who strongly support the HoR and Haftar will pay the least attention. Why should they? Finally, Kobler suggests ways of improving border security.
There is nothing in Kobler's statement that suggests any new initiatives that could provide a way out of the political crisis and unify the two sides. There appears to be no consensus on a new cabinet within the GNA and it is clear that the HoR will not vote confidence in the GNA unless Haftar is kept as commander in chief of the armed forces or some other change to the LPA is made that Haftar approves. Kobler has often said that the LPA cannot be amended until passed. Why does Kobler think that the PC can square the circle when they had problems deciding where to meet in Libya after moving from Tunis?


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