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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Martin Kobler UN envoy to Libya's briefing to Security Council on Libyan situation

(June 8)  Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General gave an extensive briefing on the Libyan situation to the UN Security Council on June 7. This article is a commentary on some of the contents.

Kobler titled the briefing "Setting the Stage for Peace". Kobler still defends the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) as a key guide towards a future settlement of Libya's divisions although he admits: "In Libya, the transition process has not been fully implemented. Parallel institutions continue to exist. The House of Representatives did not yet recognize the Government of National Accord nor did it adopt the Constitutional amendment." Indeed, the House of Representatives (HoR) last defeated a vote of confidence in the Government of National Accord as required by the LPA last August 22. Kobler claims that the GNA and its presidency council (PC) have changed facts on the ground with oil production rising to 800,000 barrels a day. However. one could argue that it is because Haftar has chosen to cooperate with the National Oil Company (NOC) that production has increased rather than any particular increased power of the GNA. Indeed the GNA is now more at the mercy of Haftar. There does not seem to have that much progress on a solution based on the LPA since the GNA failed to gain the confidence of the HoR last August.
Nonetheless, Kobler first key point is that the LPA will remain that framework of the political process. Kobler realizes that as it stands the LPA is not acceptable at least to the HoR and Haftar. Yet he claims that there is overwhelming national and international support for the LPA. It is questionable whether there is overwhelming national support for the LPA. This may be wishful thinking on Kobler's part. Whereas in earlier periods, Kobler has stressed the difficulty of amending the LPA he now takes a different tune claiming that it is not set in stone. Kobler says:"After months of consultations with Libyan, regional and international stakeholders, we are developing a roadmap to allow limited amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement, through an inclusive Libyan-led and Libyan-owned process." Kobler claims that there are different ideas on the format of the talks. One wonders if the format will be found in agreement with the terms of the LPA. Kobler never refers to where exactly in the LPA the terms for amendment are. Kobler says he sees broad agreements on where amendments are still needed. Note he does not say where exactly these are nor if there is any agreement on what the exact amendments should be. Presumably the size of the PC and the role of the commander in chief of Libyan Armed forces are two areas of concern. It is not clear if there is any agreement as to what the amendments should be. The HoR and Haftar supporters may want a three member PC with Haftar one, head of HoR government another, and Serraj the third member. Haftar would remain commander not as now the PC. There has been no meeting of a group to make amendments and no deadline for presenting results to the HoR to approve the GNA as amended, and also amending the constitutional declaration of 2011.
Amna Amtair one of the members of the GNA High Council of State (HCS) chosen as part of a group to amend the LPA accused Kobler of obstructing long awaited meetings with the rival group from the House of Representatives(HoR). She claimed that Kobler was trying to include other parties as well. According to Amtair Article 12 of the LPA says that "parties deriving their legitimacy from the agreement are to only amend, without involving other parties" A group of foreign ministers from Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria also said that the dialogue efforts must speed up.
The second key issue that Kobler deals with is the military situation. Kobler talks of the vicious attack on the Brak al Shati airbase on the 18th of May. He calls the attack a deliberate attempt to undermine the political process. Kobler makes no mention of Haftar's response to the attacks which was to seize the entire Al Jufra area and even advance towards Bin Walid. He has long threatened to enter Tripoli. Not a word about this in the section on the military situation. He mentions the Tripolii clashes in which militia supporters of the former Salvation government were driven from the city. There is not a word about the entrance of Egypt into the military situation. Complete silence on Derna and Egyptian air attacks in Libya. Things like that do not deserve a mention.
In a section dealing with unifying the security apparatus Kobler mentions that he met with Haftar in Benghazi. Haftar told him he wants to go ahead on the basis of the LPA and supported a political process to amend it. Kobler said|: "I encouraged him to let politics prevail and not to pursue military confrontation." Kobler does not seem to notice that Haftar is pursuing successfully a military path. Kobler recommended a meeting of officers from all parts of the country. However, Kobler does not report what Haftar thought of that idea!
Kobler goes on to discuss weaknesses in the economic situation: "The division of financial institutions, instability and low confidence in the banking sector continue to feed inflation and the lack of liquidity. The Central Bank has to decisively address the fiscal and monetary problems of Libya. Libya is still spending beyond its means and its foreign currency reserve is shrinking constantly." Kobler is no doubt correct but it may be difficult to deal with these problems in the face of the security situation but certainly they need to be addressed as Kobler notes. He does not provide any suggestions as to how this could be done. Kobler also claims that national reconciliation is necessary for a durable peace in Libya. However, it is not clear how in the present climate in Libya such reconciliation is possible.
Kobler suggests that the international community should be more strongly involved in finding a political solution. He notes that there should not be competing parallel processes not involving the UN:"Uncoordinated or parallel efforts risk undermining progress and complicating an already complex situation." Some Libyans may feel that part of the political problem is that many foreign nations have their own agendas, which may not be in the best interests of Libyans. All these international meetings have yet to produce any agreement as to how exactly the LPA is to be amended and the political division in the country resolved. Meanwhile Haftar is marching on with his own military solution and Operation Dignity. You will not find that term anywhere in Kobler's briefing.


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