Commander of Tobruk government armed forces refuses to join peace dialogue in Libya
After the last round of talks in Morocco with representatives of the two rival governments in Libya, the UN Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, claimed that the two sides were very close to an agreement.
The two sides were to go back to Libya for consultations and then return this week to reach a final agreement on a unity government. Leon noted talks between the two main military forces — Libya Dawn associated with the Tripoli government, and the Libyan National Army commanded by CIA-linked General Khalifa Haftar, associated with the internationally-recognized Tobruk government — would be necessary for the agreement to work and to reach a ceasefire. He was to make those arrangements last week. Finally after a long silence the UN has issued two press releases.
The first release can be found here while the most recent release is here. Nowhere in either of these releases is there even a mention of the two military forces having a dialogue. Indeed the two press releases are notable by what they leave out. They do include the letter sent to the parties along with the third draft proposals for a unity government. They leave out the draft proposals themselves. They can be accessed through the Libya Herald but you will need to subscribe to see them. The UN could easily have provided the text or a link to it but may have intended to keep it under wraps.
The letter sets out some of the background of the draft. It has some interesting passages including the following:
The Supreme Court Ruling referred to on November 6 declared the June elections in 2014 for the House of Representatives (Tobruk government) were unconstitutional and the Tobruk parliament should be dissolved. Just how can a decision that declares the June elections unconstitutional be squared with the contention that the results of those elections be upheld? It is this decision of the Supreme Constitutional Court that the Tripoli government uses to claim its legitimacy. Never mind that the UN position makes no sense, it squares the circle by recognizing the legitimacy of the House of Representatives, that is the Tobruk government legislature, as demanded by the Tobruk government, but also makes reference to the Supreme Court Ruling used by the Tripoli government to buttress its own claims to legitimacy. So both sides are supposed to be happy. Of course they are not. The GNC, Tripoli government rejects the draft completely as it is. Specific parties have also rejected the draft including the Muslim Brotherhood, Justice and Construction Party, and the Alwatan Party. A senior official of the Tobruk government told the Anadolu Company that the UN proposal was "disappointing, unbalanced, and disrespectful of the nation's Supreme Constitutional Court ruling."
The UN news releases tell nothing of these rejections but simply says "the Mission has noted initial feedback to the draft agreement". Nor will the UN tell you why there are no meetings of the two main military forces. It does not even mention that there will be no meetings. The Libya Herald explains:
Haftar has never made a secret of his contempt for the dialogue process. He has time after time said there will be no ceasefire with militias and called the dialogue talks with terrorists. He has constantly thumbed his nose at the UN. His suggestion to Leon when he briefs the UN on the Libyan situation is that Leon should urge the UN to remove the arms embargo on Libya. He is pursuing a military solution. The UN simply ignores this reality. UNSMIL cannot even bring themselves to mention his name or to note that he refused to engage in the dialogue process.
As shown on the appended video Leon is now hoping for an agreement on a unity government by June. No mention of talks between military forces. This farce cannot end yet because it must look as if the parties are trying to forge a political solution even though this involves ignoring reality. It cannot appear that the U.S. and other western countries are not working very diligently to bring peace, prosperity, and democracy to Libya. If this is what they are trying to do why are they making no move to reign in Haftar who refuses to participate in any dialogue and is actively pursuing a military solution? Even if there is an agreement, and that seems improbable, how could it ever be implemented since it requires a cease fire between Haftar and the opposing militias? Leon claims it is difficult to be optimistic that an agreement can be reached. Finally, even the ever optimistic Leon is showing some signs that the farce may end soon with no agreement.
At its core, this draft agreement is anchored in the inviolability of the democratic process and in recognition of judicial decisions. This includes upholding the results of Libya’s democratic elections in June 2014, as well as taking all steps necessary to prevent a constitutional vacuum in line with the principle of the continuity of the state, This is a practice that is well established in countless judicial and political systems around the world, and one which can be justifiably invoked with respect to the 6 November 2014 ruling by the Constitutional Circuit of Libya’s Supreme Court.This is bizarre beyond belief.
Operation Dignity has rejected an invitation from UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon to join in the military platform of the Dialogue process. It says it is part of the regular army, not a militia, and that it takes its instructions only from the General Staff and the head of the armed forces. It complained that Leon was treating it as just another militia. It did not negotiate or get involved in talks with militias, a spokesman said on Karama TV. Separately, both Wanis Bukhamada, the head of Saiqa Special Forces and Jamal Al-Zahawi, head of 21 Brigade (Shuhada Al-Zawia Brigade) have said that the political dialogue “is dead”... Fadel Al-Hassi, the head of Saiqa’s Investigations Unit, reports Bukhamada saying the UN process is finished and that the army is not going to be part of it.The head of the armed forces is General Khalifa Haftar, who began Operation Dignity last May and was at the time subject to an arrest warrant for attempting a coup. Abdullah al-Thinni was then prime minister of the GNC transitional government and called Haftar's action ,which included attacks on Benghazi islamist militias and the burning of the Tripoli parliament, illegal. He is now prime minister of the Tobruk government and has made Haftar commander of the Tobruk armed forces. Haftar takes it for granted that the Tobruk government is the legitimate government and his armed forces the only forces to be recognized. There will be no dialogue with Haftar. How can there be a viable political solution as long as this is the state of affairs?