Peace talk dialogue group meets even though participants from one rival government not present
Last Thursday, Bernardino Leon, the UN special envoy for Libya convened a meeting of participants in the Libyan peace talks dialogue without the presence of the Tripoli government one of two rival Libyan governments.
The other rival government negotiators, from the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) in Tobruk, were in attendance as were some independents. Those present agreed to an amended fourth draft for a planned Government of National Accord and signed it. Leon hailed the event as an agreement, when in fact as I pointed out in a recent article, there was no agreement since one key party did not sign. Indeed, the Tripoli, GNC government told their negotiators not to sign until amendments were made. If you look for the latest press releases from UNSMIL the latest one as of this writing is on July 1st. The link to thelater report of the Thursday meeting still works but is not listed as one of their news releases.One interpretation of what happened last Thursday is that it is a partial deal that will see the Tobruk negotiators and some independents sign on to the last draft, as has already happened. If the GNC will not sign, the process of forming the Government of National Accord will simply continue without them, giving the House of Representatives almost complete control of the process. This scenario was suggested as a positive step in an Op Ed in the Libya Herald by Azza Maghur. The same scenario is discussed in an article in the Middle East Eye by Matia Toaldo, a policy fellow in the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations.He describes the limited deal as follows:What the deal would do is start a civil war. As Toalda notes, the situation would legitimize the military activities of Khalifa Haftar, the CIA-linked head of the Tobruk armed forces. This is precisely what some on the Tobruk side and Haftar himself want to happen. The new government would ask for international intervention, something Toalda claims neither the U.S. or Europeans want to do. However, they might be happy enough to provide arms and other support for Haftar and certainly Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia would help out. Toalda sees the agreement leading not to peace but to war and he also doubts that there is enough in the agreement to persuade the moderate Misrata militia to join the deal.Leon met not with militia commanders suggested by the senior command of the Tripoli forces, but instead with commanders from Misrata without even getting clearance from Tripoli. Toalda's analysis would suggest that Leon's aim might have been to divide the Tripoli militia and have one group sign the deal. Tripoli was angry at this move. It had offered to nominate commanders to meet with Leon.Toalda's description of events is much more detailed and accurate than most accounts. He notes that Leon had produced five draft agreements:Toalda notes that major points of disagreement had to do with the power of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk, which was the sole legislative body and that of the GNC of Tripoli. But there was also disagreement about the role of Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army. The parties as well disagreed about how long the term of the HoR was to last — and whether the laws and appointments it had made up until now were to be repealed or validated. This would include the appointment of Haftar as commander of the Libyan National Army.The UN mission, without consulting Tripoli delegates, made amendments that resulted in a fifth draft. The Misrata moderate group were particularly incensed at the reduction in powers of the State Council. It became in effect a merely advisory body, lacking the power to block legislation from the HoR and even in making major appointments or passing a non-confidence motion against the government. The new draft is ambiguous about the role of the Libyan National Army. It could lead to the present Tobruk army led by Haftar playing a prominent role in the future government. As Toaldo puts it:Toaldo thinks that it is also possible that various groups in conflict weary of the war come up with their own peace proposals. In fact this has happened between Tripoli and several militia groups opposed to them who were able to agree to ceasefires, prisoner exchanges and some degree of normalization of relations. Khalifa Haftar is not likely to give up on his attempts through Operation Dignity to defeat Islamic militias associated with the Tripoli government.
This would be an agreement signed by some of the factions siding with the parliament in Tobruk along with most of the factions in Misrata, the main stakeholder of the rebel Libya Dawn coalition. In this “limited agreement” scenario, the rump General National Congress - the unrecognised parliament sitting in Tripoli - would not sign the deal.."While the deal would have some advantages for the international community, Toalda sees it as unworkable. There will be many Tripoli-linked militias who will be hostile to the new government. These groups would not voluntarily relinquish control of the capital. This is surely not surprising. Toaldo calls these groups "spoilers" but why should they accept a government that they did not agree to and in which they have no power?
The fourth was supposed to be the last, a “take it or leave it” moment after which those who were against a deal would get individual sanctions. But the House of Representatives in Tobruk rejected the draft as unbalanced and approved a list of 52 amendments for the 63 articles-long text.The Tripoli government was generally supportive of the fourth draft with only a few hard liners rejecting it.
Even if based on grounds of legitimacy, an agreement that establishes the superiority of both the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the existing Libyan National Army, and therefore Haftar, is not going to fly with those who took arms against both, even with the moderates in Misrata.It is difficult to see how it could be based on grounds of legitimacy from the point of view of those associated with Tripoli in any event. The Tobruk government for them is illegitimate according to the Supreme Court Ruling last November which had declared that elections in June 2014 for the HoR were unconstitutional. The GNC government refers to the HoR constantly as the "dissolved parliament." While Toaldo does not rule out a limited agreement resulting from international pressures he thinks this unlikely.