Sunday, November 29, 2015

New UN Libya envoy continues to demand rival governments sign on to Libya Political Agreement

The new UN Special Envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, is continuing to try to persuade the two rival Libyan governments to sign on to the final draft of the Libyan Political Agreement(LPA) presented by former envoy Bernardino Leon.
Neither of the two rival governments — the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) located in the east in Tobruk, nor the General National Congress(GNC) located in Tripoli in the west — have voted on or approved the Leon LPA. Leon left the United Nations Support Mission in Libya(UNSMIL) under a cloud due to conflict of interest allegations. He took a $1,500 a day job in the UAE in June and also accepted direction from the UAE, according to leaked emails. Statements from both parliaments have rejected the deal.
Since taking over from Leon just over a week ago, Kobler has done nothing but push both sides to sign on to the Leon draft. He had talks with representatives of both governments over last weekend. Neither side has given any indication they are likely to sign on. The GNC earlier demanded amendments. Leon said that was impossible and then made amendments himself. Kobler, following in the footsteps of Leon, has also maintained that not only the draft text must remain as is, but the names suggested by Leon as senior members of the Government of National Accord as well. Neither side has accepted these names and both want changes. The GNC did not submit any names and the HoR list of names did not include the prime minister suggested by Leon.
In Tobruk, after his talks with HoR representatives, Kobler said to reporters: "We cannot reopen the Libyan agreement now. I encouraged and I urged the members of the House of Representatives to go for a positive vote. This country deserves better than being in a bad economic state like now."Of course there is no mention of HoR setting up a separate National Oil Company and demanding tankers register with it — the HoR was undercutting the work of the neutral National Oil Company that up until now had exclusive jurisdiction over exports. The UN repeatedly warned against either party weakening its role on pain of facing sanctions. This was obviously a meaningless threat and the HoR went ahead. It now rejects a deal made by Glencore with the NOC to export oil. This is the sort of action that is ruining the economy of LIbya — Kobler refuses to even mention such events. Even if through a combination of carrots and sticks he manages to get the two sides to sign on to the LPA, this would be unenforceable without a parallel military agreement. Khalifa Haftar, who commands the HoR forces and the GNC forces mostly under Libya Dawn militia, must agree on a ceasefire and the LPA. Haftar rejects the LPA and refuses to negotiate with GNC militia, calling them terrorists. Jason Pack claims in a recent article:"Of course, security arrangements are both among the most crucial and most ambiguous components of the political agreement. Even if both the HoR and GNC miraculously endorsed the GNA, state collapse would be likely if the security situation is not addressed. However, progress on that key issue is unlikely without involving and maintaining the support of actors at the local level."
If both endorsed the GNA, then what is likely is not state collapse, but at least in the east, a military coup by Khalifa Haftar. He already proposes that the HoR should be replaced by a military council, and he has pledged allegiance to the HoR only as long as it does not sign on to the LPA. Haftar not only has stopped the HoR prime minister from leaving Libya twice, but he has an agreement to vet some cabinet appointments.
Nevertheless, Kobler insists on going further down the failed path of Leon: "We can discuss unresolved issues but should go for rapid signature of agreement on basis of where Leon left the process. The country needs legitimate institutions, strong institutions." Since the talks on the weekend, it is not clear what Kobler has been doing. The latest release from the UN site praises the recent peace agreement between the Tebu and Tuareg tribes in the south of Libya. It concludes by urging the parties to sign on to the LPA. An article in the pro-GNC Libya Observer by the the Head of Information and Culture Authority in the eastern government of Abdullah Al-Thanni.
UPDATE: A new report from the pro-HoR Libya Herald claims a meeting of the HoR to discuss and vote on the HoR has been suspended after a fight, again with no vote taken. Before the meeting, 92 HoR members had signed a statement backing the GNA. However, the group does not really approve the GNA at all since it insists that there be no changes in the leadership of the Libyan National Army — that is, General Khalifa Haftar is to keep his job. The LPA takes away his position and gives it to senior members of the GNA. No one on the other side will accept Haftar staying on the job. These events deserve a separate article. The GNC is apparently meeting soon also to discuss the LPA. Even if the HoR does pass a motion supporting the LPA it will not be the one that Leon proposed!