Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1240, (2 - 8 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

No solution in sight

Little to no progress has been made at the UN-sponsored Libyan dialogue, with the warring factions unable to discuss practicalities beyond generalities, writes Kamel Abdallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

The main Libyan factions still have a long way to go before reaching a solution to the complex and escalating crisis in Libya, Al-Ahram Weekly has learned. UN envoy Bernardino Leon is still working to bridge gaps between rival factions.

The UN Security Council on Friday issued two new resolutions on Libya. The first, Resolution 2213, extends the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), headed by Leon, until 15 September while reducing the number of its staff. It also called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the country.

The second, Resolution 2214, condemned the torture and human rights violations that have occurred in Libya over the past year and urged the Libyan government to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court in investigating these crimes. The council also expressed support for the UN-led political dialogue and called on all Libyan parties to engage constructively in this process.

The Security Council urged UN member states to fight terrorist threats through “all means” and expressed grave concern about the proliferation of extremist and terrorist groups and the detrimental impact of their violence and extremist ideology, making specific mention of the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL ⎯also known as Daesh), its supporters and all other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with Al-Qaeda.”

In light of this concern, the council unanimously agreed that it is necessary to pursue a comprehensive approach to fighting extremist organisations. The council also voted unanimously to extend the embargo on supplying arms to Libya.

In March, representatives of the main Libyan factions held three official dialogue sessions in the Moroccan city of Skhirat, as well as a number of unofficial separate meetings with UN envoy Leon.

The Weekly has learned that the dialogue efforts have so far failed to bridge gaps between the warring parties. The proposals submitted were brought forward either by the delegation representing the General National Congress (GNC), based in Tripoli, or by the UN envoy, while the delegation representing the House of Representatives in Tobruk only pressed its insistence that it be recognised as the sole representative of the Libyan people.

Participants at the March sessions focused on two out of the three points on the dialogue agenda as formulated by the UN envoy. The first regards the creation of a national unity government representative of all sides and the second concerns security measures and the withdrawal of militia forces from major cities. The third point accelerating the constitutional drafting process by the Constituent Assembly has yet to be discussed.

Last week, Leon visited Tripoli and Tobruk where he presented rival factions with ideas that he hoped would expedite talks. There were six ideas described as forming a basis from which the parties could work.

These included a national unity government and a presidential council headed by independent personalities unaffiliated with any party or group and acceptable to the parties and all Libyans. The main members of the council would be the president and two deputy presidents.

The other ideas were: House of Representatives as a legislative body that represents all Libyans in the framework of the full application of the principles of legitimacy and inclusion; a high state council inspired by similar institutions existing in other countries where they are regarded as a fundamental institution for sound governance; a constitutional drafting assembly; a national security council; and a municipalities council.

The UNSMIL press release listing these points, a copy of which was sent to the Weekly, adds after the fourth point, that a “mechanism for cooperation between these institutions will be agreed on to achieve consensus at this critical stage.”

As for the last two proposed bodies the constitutional drafting assembly and the national security council they would be “shaped in the second stage of the talks.”

The statement adds: “The life of all these bodies will be extended during a new transitional period whose duration will be agreed on by the parties and will end with new elections that will come after the approval of the constitution by referendum.” Which is to say that Libya would enter yet another interim phase its fourth.

Leon’s ideas were immediately and warmly received by the House of Representatives in Tobruk, which cheered the second point, which stresses the legitimacy of that parliamentary body. Throughout March this had been a constant sticking point for the faction in the context of the dialogue process.

It is clear that the House of Representatives does not have any constructive initiative of its own to offer, as demonstrated on several occasions during the dialogue process. At every turn it has harped on about its legitimacy without producing a single proposal to resolve the crisis.

The GNC delegation, by contrast, offered several proposals when the talks resumed in Skhirat. One was to create a six-member presidential council (consisting of three members from the House of Representatives and three from the GNC).

Another was to institute a bicameral legislature (consisting of the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the GNC in Tripoli). The effect of such proposals was to throw the House of Representatives delegation into confusion and lead them to insist even more strenuously on its legitimacy.

On the question of security arrangements, there was a proposal for incorporating some militias into the army and others into civilian governmental frameworks. This point occasioned considerable similarities in views between the factions and could serve as a platform to build on in the next phase of the dialogue.

On another track of the dialogue process, the meeting between representatives of Libyan municipal councils that was held in Brussels last week did not make considerable progress. A major obstacle was sharp disagreement over a clear and concise definition of “terrorism” that all parties could agree on, especially given that the factions routinely accuse their adversaries of being “terrorists” or “coup-makers.”

In view of such impasses, the UN envoy was expected to urge leaders at the Sharm El-Sheikh Arab Summit to pressure their allies in Libya to continue with the dialogue in Skhirat after he updates them on the progress made so far.

The Weekly has learned that the “progress” has not been considerable. The two sides have not even reached the stage where they can discuss candidates for the national unity government, whose prospects for appointment in that government, the Weekly also learned, will be contingent on the approval of regional and international powers.

Meanwhile, hostilities continue to rage in eastern, western and southern Libya. In the petroleum crescent region, however, an agreement has been struck between Libya Dawn forces and the Petroleum Facilities Guards.

The agreement stipulates that all militia forces will begin a phased withdrawal and hand over the oil exporting ports to the National Petroleum Organisation (NPO). The NOP will then create a force drawn from all regions of the country to protect the installations.

But there remains a major hitch as the government in Tobruk has created an alternative petroleum body to the one based in Tripoli, which is under the control of Libya Dawn militias. Tensions over this matter could easily jeopardise the phased withdrawa

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