Friday, April 28, 2017

Eastern commander Haftar finally meets with UN envoy Kobler

For almost a year, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the eastern-based government of the House of Representatives (HoR) has refused to meet with Martin Kobler UN envoy to Libya.

However, there was a surprise meeting between the two at Haftar's Rajma Headquarter just outside of Benghazi. Kobler sent a message that it had been a good meeting that had focused on the obstacles facing implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement and what would happen afterwards. The two men are said to have had a cordial meeting. It was in December of 2015 that the two last met.
Haftar has been increasingly critical of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya that Kobler heads. He turned down several earlier requests for meetings as described here as a waster of time and here.
Last September, Kobler told the UN Security Council that Kobler had to have a role in the new Libya. It is not clear whether the present Presidential Council(PC) of the Libyan Government of National Accord(GNA) would agree to this. Many, especially in the Hight State Council, want Haftar to have no role in the new government. The present Libya Political Agreement (LPA) section 8, assigns the role of commander of the armed forces to the PC temporarily. The HoR has always demanded the section be deleted. They want Haftar to be commander of the armed forces. This is a position the PC are never likely to accept. Haftar and the HoR government rejected Kobler's suggestion and said he was part of the problem and had to go. The present GNA was rejected last August 22. At the time, a new cabinet was to be presented within ten days. There is still no new lineup. A dialogue meeting was held in Tunis in January but the HoR representatives failed to participate and still have not appointed new members.
On March 7, the HoR met and voted to suspend any participation in the dialogue. On April 7th the group met again and set forth a number of conditions for taking part in the dialogue. The conditions included removing section 8 of the LPA and retaining Haftar as the commander of the Libyan armed forces. Neither conditions would be acceptable to the PC or High State Council I expect.
It is not clear why Haftar decided to meet Kobler now. Perhaps it was pressure from Kobler's new deputy Maria Ribeiro who met with HoR head Ageela Saleh and a number of HoR members. Kobler is due to be replaced but his first replacement a Palestinian was rejected by the US and the next suggestion by the US was rejected by Russia. Kobler has been staying on but as a sort of lame-duck envoy.
Haftar's press office on Facebook also mentioned the meeting saying to two "faced topics regarding Libya's future, difficulties and obstacles on the path of the political accord." There were no further details. The talks appear to have accomplished nothing. Haftar has continual to stress, counter to Kobler's position that there is only a political solution to the Libyan political crisis, that there is also a military solution. The head of the HoR government, Ageela Saleh, has said that there is only a military solution to the problem. There are already clashes between forces loyal to the GNA and those loyal to Haftar in southern Libya near the city of Sabha. There is no sign that the meeting resulted in any new initiatives to solve the political crisis. A recent tweet noted: Haftar: We are seeking to consolidate disciplined forces under a legitimate banner. #Libya. Who knows what that means. Perhaps he is looking to recruit more members for his Libyan National Army. Meanwhile Saleh suggests, according to a tweet, a new mission for a renewed dialogue: Aghilah Salah " We will go back to dialogue to remove #PC as it failed to deliver " There is no sign of any new dialogue meeting as yet.


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