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Monday, February 27, 2017

Cairo meeting fails to come up with solution to Libya crisis

Egyptian government attempts to mediate a peace deal between Presidency Council (PC) leader of the UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) Faiez Serraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) failed.

(February 15) The LNA is the armed forces associated with the rival government to the GNA the Al-Thinni House of Representatives (HoR) government. Haftar refused to meet with Serraj and Serraj flew back to Tripoli from Cairo. Mohamed Samir spokesperson for the Egyptian Army said that the two did agree that there should be parliamentary elections and a presidential election in February of 2018. However, the Libya Herald claims it was told by a source that although Serraj agreed to the proposal, Haftar did not. Ageela Saleh, said only that he would study the idea. Apparently the Egyptian spokesperson was manufacturing fake news!
Serraj and Haftar were supposed to join in a meeting Tuesday that would have been chaired by Egyptian president Abdel el-Sisi. Serraj waited patiently all day in his hotel while Egyptian intelligence officials pressured Haftar to accept a compromise. Obviously they did not succeed. Haftar refused to accept Serraj's plan for a three-man PC rather than the present nine. He also rejected the proposal to have the position of commander-in-chief to be held jointly by the head of the PC, the HoR, and the State Council plus a supreme military council that would include Haftar. Haftar wants to remain head of the armed forces of any new GNA.
Both sides agreed to set up a committee of 15 members each from the HoR and the State Council of the GNA to consider changes to the Libya Political Agreement(LPA). There is no mention of a meeting for the HoR to vote confidence in the GNA as is required by the LPA. Some time ago the UN envoy Martin Kobler insisted that the LPA can be amended only after the HoR accepts it as it is and votes confidence in the GNA. The Herald suggests that the failure could strain relations between Haftar and Egyptian authorities. I doubt that there will be any significant changes in Egypt's support for Haftar as Egypt sees it as in its interest to continue support for him. He also has Russia and the UAE behind him. Haftar has been consistent in his demands and his attitude towards the peace process. He thinks there is a military solution and has been constantly trying to strengthen his power as the GNA appears to weaken and even faces an attempted coup by the PM of the former Salvation Government that so far the GNA has failed to put down.
In an interview with Arabic newspaper, Serraj explained that there was no meeting between himself and Haftar in Cairo because Haftar insisted that Ageela Saleh take part in the talks, but Saleh had refused to meet Serraj. Saleh said: "The intransigence of each party has resulted in the stagnation of a political solution and has increased the suffering of the Libyan people." Saleh is already sanctioned by the US and EU for allegedly blocking a settlement of the Libyan crisis. In my opinion, Saleh simply follows whatever Haftar wants. Nevertheless, Serraj thought that dialogue would eventually find a way out and that he would announce a new way forward in the next few days. At the same time, Serraj said he doubted that any government formed in the present circumstances could gain HoR approval or public confidence. Given this assessment, it is hard to see how there can be any successful way forward.
Haftar and Saleh remain in Cairo in talks with Egyptian authorities. The former ambassador to the UAE and several boycotting members of the HoR have also been involved in talks. Tarek al-Jaroushi a member of the HoR who attended the talks said: "Seraj must return to the legitimacy of (the eastern) parliament if he really is looking for a Government of National Accord that secures the rights of all Libyans." The GNA does recognize the legitimacy of the HoR but it becomes the legislature of the GNA only once it approves the GNA.
The HoR last rejected the GNA on August 22 last year. Almost six months later there seems little progress in having the HoR and its armed forces join with the GNA. It remains to be seen if US president Trump will involve the US in this crisis.


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