Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1243, (23 - 29 April 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Fourth Skhirat round ends

While the outline of an agreement is on the table in UN sponsored talks on Libya’s crisis, observers charge that the negotiators have no power, and hence no breakthrough can be made, writes Kamel Abdallah

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Al-Ahram Weekly

The UN-sponsored Libyan dialogue that seeks a political solution to the Libyan crisis concluded its fourth round this week in Skhirat, a coastal town south of the Moroccan capital Rabat. In this round, held from 16 to 19 April, the main factions submitted their observations on a draft solution that UN envoy Bernardino Leon had presented to them during the previous round, in March.

Leon announced in a press conference in Skhirat on Sunday: “We have concluded a new round of the Libyan negotiations and we have a new version of the political document. The document is 80 to 90 per cent ready and the Libyan parties have approved it.” As for the remaining 20 per cent, “it is a very important portion of the agreement. The parties to the dialogue will return to Libya for consultations during the coming days. Then in the week after next, we will return to complete the dialogue.”

Leon, who is also the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), continued: “We worked hard during the past few days. We still have difficulties in these negotiations as there is still mounting terrorist activity in Libya and preliminary information indicate growth of the IS (the Islamic State) there. The Libyan political talks face resistance and opposition from the militia groups, but we will continue negotiations.”

Leon added that preparations were under way for talks at the level of military officials in Libya. Although he indicated that these talks would be held soon, he did not specify a place or date. He also expressed his hopes that forthcoming rounds would bring together tribal leaders. There are indications that the first such round will be held in Marsa Matrouh in northwest Egypt, near the border with Libya.

The draft that the UN envoy had presented to participants at the end of the third round of talks in Skhirat consisted of seven sections with a total of 47 articles, addressing the framework principles for the dialogue process, the creation of a national unity government, confidence-building measures, security arrangements between the warring parties, the promulgation of the constitution, international support for the new government, and final provisions.

The 19 framework principles, which are part of the agreement, call for commitment to the unity and sovereignty of Libya, to the principles of the 17 February Revolution and to the creation of a national consensus government. They also affirm the legitimacy of the House of Representatives, the renunciation of violence, support for the armed forces and police, and the need to dissolve all other armed groups. Other principles call for the protection of cultural and linguistic rights and civic liberties, an impartial media, the implementation of the transitional justice law, the condemnation of all forms of terrorism, and the need to remedy the conditions of refugees and displaced persons, to protect them and to facilitate their return to their homes.

The section on the creation of a national consensus government contains 12 points that cover its duties and powers, the criteria for choosing its members and details regarding each of their authorities. In addition to designating confidence-building measures, the seven-article section on this subject addresses how these are to be implemented and the role of the national consensus government in overseeing and safeguarding their implementation.

The fourth section, on security measures, contains 16 articles that are concerned with the means to bring a halt to hostilities, the withdrawal of militias from urban areas, the fight against terrorist organisations, and the roles of the national consensus government and the national army and police in the implementation of the foregoing points and in safeguarding peace and security throughout the country.

The portion of the constitutional promulgation process (four articles) underscores the need to respect this process that is essential to concluding the interim phase and the need to respect the Constituent Assembly, which is charged with drafting Libya’s new constitution. It also addresses the role of the national consensus government and the House of Representatives in supporting this constitutional-drafting body until it completes its work.

The sixth section on international support (three articles) focuses on the roles of the national consensus government, the House of Representatives and UNSMIL in mustering international support for the Libyan government and in drawing up a comprehensive plan for securing international support for government institutions during the interim phase. It also addresses the roles that the UN and the Arab League will play, alongside the national consensus government, in the process of reconstruction.

With regard to the final provisions, one states that the agreement will go into effect immediately after it has been approved by all parties to the national dialogue and the House of Representatives. Another stresses that the parliament and the national consensus government will continue their operations until the end of the term of the latter. In addition, this section, which contains five articles, calls on all parties to abide by the constitutional amendment introduced by the House of Representatives.

In tandem with last week’s dialogue round in Morocco, hostilities in the vicinity of the Libyan capital escalated further with the purpose of intimidating the General National Congress (GNC), one of the chief participants in the Skhirat talks, and UNSMIL, the sponsor of the Libyan dialogue. Among the locations targeted by military aircraft under the command of General Khalifa Haftar was the Muatig Airport east of Tripoli, just as the GNC negotiating team was leaving the airport. This is the fourth time that this team had been targeted as it was leaving the airport since the dialogues resumed in Skhirat. In spite of this and the condemnation the attack incurred, representatives of the parliament in Tobruk and army commanders loyal to it blamed the UN and the GNC for the intensification of hostilities around the capital, which could lead to a freeze in the dialogue.

Al-Ahram Weekly has learned that, after the military escalation, participating parties in Skhirat failed to achieve any tangible progress in their separate meetings with the UN envoy. Leon, in turn, felt compelled to warn that he would suspend the dialogue if the chief parties did not respond to UNSMIL’s repeated calls for a ceasefire on all fronts since Haftar launched Operation Dignity on 16 May 2014.

On the other hand, UNSMIL members are optimistic. They feel confident that the final draft of a deal, formulated after taking into account the comments of the participants, will be approved by all sides.

In its comments on the draft proposals submitted by the UN envoy after the third round, the House of Representatives focused heavily on the role of that body and on wholesale modifications to the draft, regardless of other frameworks over which there had been considerable negotiation since the extended dialogue process resumed in Geneva in January.

Observers maintain that the House of Representatives in its remarks on the Leon draft made no concessions to the other side, the GNC, which they said did make some compromises in the interests of reaching a solution to the Libyan crisis. The observers held that the attitude of the House of Representatives would hamper progress toward the formulation of a final draft agreement.

The GNC attached a new proposal for a solution to its observations on the draft agreement submitted by Leon at the end of the third round. However, the GNC negotiating team refused to disclose its substance to the press. They nevertheless stressed that they would continue with the dialogue process in spite of military escalation on the part of Haftar who was supported by the House of Representatives.

Observers also believe that the intransigent stances on the part of the House of Representatives in Tobruk are more a reflection of attitudes in eastern Libya, as the representatives from western and southern parts of the country have begun to complain that they are being marginalised in Tobruk.

It is noteworthy, here, that Ahmed Al-Abbar, one of the independents taking part in the Libyan dialogue, has accused both the Houses of Representatives and the GNC of obstructing progress in the talks. Al-Abbar, a member of the former Interim National Assembly, remarked: “It is the misfortune of the Libyan people that their fate is being determined by political figures without the required skills and expertise. Both the House of Representatives and the GNC sent 30 negotiators to the current round, but they do not have the slightest authority to negotiate or take decisions. They have to refer back [to the House or GNC] on every matter large or small, making them more in the nature of messengers charged with transmitting the opinion of the agency that sent them. This has caused the dialogue to flounder and go around in circles without any noticeable progress.”

The representatives of both the House and the GNC “have no sense of the suffering that the Libyan people are experiencing or of the danger that threatens their lives every moment”, Al-Abbar said, adding: “There is no education in Benghazi, hospitals are at risk of having to halt services while the fighting continues in the midst of residential neighbourhoods. The same conditions have moved to Tripoli recently and to most other Libyan cities.”

Al-Abbar appealed to both the House and the GNC to grant their delegates to the national dialogue fuller decision making powers, so as to enable a more rapid solution to the Libyan crisis.

In another development related to the hostilities in Libya during the last round of the dialogue, on Friday, the forces of General Haftar failed to seize control of an army camp in Tajoura, 10 kilometres east of Tripoli. More than 10 died and 30 were wounded among the ranks of the militias under Haftar’s command during the clashes that day. In addition, an Operation Dignity commander was arrested and charged with attempting to disrupt the security and stability of the capital repeated attempts at which are designed to hamper the UN-sponsored dialogue.

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