Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1364, (12 - 18 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Pushing ahead to peace

The mechanisms of a transition out of political stalemate in Libya are firming up, despite that some parties are not yet on board, writes Kamel Abdallah


A police car parking in the midst of empty cartridges in Sabratha after three weeks of deadly fighting (photo: AFP)

اقرأ باللغة العربية

Ghassan Salamé, the UN special envoy and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), announced Monday that the Joint Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) Drafting Committee will reconvene in Tunisia Saturday to discuss limited amendments to the LPA signed in Skhirat, Morocco, 17 December 2015. The House of Representatives based in Tobruk and the High Council of State based in Tripoli are currently in consultations with their respective delegations to the Drafting Committee over the results of the committee meetings that were held in Tunis on 29 and 30 September. Recent security-related developments on the ground are expected to cast their shadow over the forthcoming meetings in Tunisia.

The meetings of the committee are the first phase of the Action Plan for the Sake of Libya unveiled by Salamé during the high-level meeting on Libya at the UN headquarters in New York City on 20 September. The meeting was attended by the heads of state and government from Egypt, Britain, Italy, France and representatives of other states concerned with the Libyan crisis.

The second phase of the Action Plan consists of a broad-based national conference to elect the executives in the three-member Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord (GNA) and to reach a consensus over the outstanding points of dispute in the draft constitution approved by the Constitutional Drafting Assembly on 29 July in a controversial vote. The third phase is to prepare for and hold legislative and presidential elections, which should bring to an end the turbulent interim phase in Libya.

During the first round of the Joint Drafting Committee in Tunisia at end of September, the delegations from both the House of Representatives and the High Council of State agreed that it was necessary to reduce the members of the Presidency Council from nine members to three and to separate the Government of National Accord from the council and elect a separate prime minister. The point was to expand executive posts so as to encourage the highest degree of consensus among all Libyan disputants. However, ongoing lack of commitment and seriousness on part of Libyan factions has continued to impede efforts to revive the political process that has remained stalled for two years in spite of international and regional efforts to persuade the Libyan factions to abide by the understandings they had reached in the LPA that emerged from the Libyan National Dialogue.

Abdul-Salam Nassiyeh, chairman of the Political Dialogue Committee of the House of Representatives, said that participants in the first round of meetings in Tunisia on amendments to the LPA discussed five main points. They relate to the articles on granting a vote of confidence, the duties of the supreme commander of the armed forces, the election process for the Presidency Council, guaranteeing the impartiality of the executive authority and, lastly, adhering to the timeframe for the interim period.

On the question of parliamentary approval of a proposed slate of cabinet members, Nassiyeh said that participants agreed that the cabinet composition should change if it failed to obtain a vote of confidence the second time around and that a vote of confidence could be granted on the basis of a vote among the number of members present after the third round. The purpose of such mechanisms, he said, is to prevent protraction of the interim period.

In his speech to the Tobruk based House of Representatives on Sunday, Nassiyeh added that, in addition to the duties of the supreme commander of the armed forces, the participants in the talks in Tunis also broached differences over Article 8 in the Additional Provisions, which the House of Representatives rejects, and the mechanism for electing the Presidency Council in accordance with mutual and universally accepted guarantees. He stressed that the talks addressed the questions of the political neutrality of the executive authority, adhering to the schedule for the interim phase and the need to settle outstanding differences over the constitution. He hoped for a resolution to all such issues so that the Libyan people’s suffering could be brought to an end.

The High Council of State in Tripoli was scheduled to convene Tuesday to discuss the outcomes of the first meetings of the Joint Drafting Committee before its dialogue committee heads back to Tunisia Saturday when that committee reconvenes. Meanwhile, the chairman of the council, Abdulrahman Al-Swehly, travelled to Rome for talks with Italian authorities and then received Turkey’s special envoy to Libya, Emrullah Isler, who visited Tripoli Monday.

The House of Representatives in Tobruk and the High Council of State of Tripoli holding talks in Tunisia

In his briefing to the Security Council at the end of August and in his address to the UN General Assembly and his speech to the summit meeting on Libya in New York in September, Salamé cautioned that, however well intentioned, too many international initiatives to solve the Libyan crisis could confuse and derail the UN-sponsored process. Such cautions have apparently not succeeded in inducing certain powers involved in the Libyan crisis to seriously support UN efforts.

Nevertheless, Salamé made it clear that he will not hesitate to move on to the second phase of the UN Action Plan for Libya— the national conference — in the event that the first phase stalled, which is to say if the House of Representatives refused to approve the LPA with its agreed upon amendments.

The political developments above occurred against a backdrop of security related developments that are certain to have an impact on forthcoming talks and negotiations. Of chief importance, in Sabratha to the west of Tripoli, a militia called the Operation Room expelled the 48th Infantry Brigade forces, in spite of the fact that both forces are affiliated with the Presidency Council in Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the head of the Investigation Office at the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tripoli, Al-Sadiq Al-Sour, revealed new details regarding the formation of the Islamic State (IS) group in Libya, which had taken control of Sirte and runs a number of IS cells in the country. The revelations could throw a number of parties into disarray, especially as the prosecutor’s office issued more than 826 arrest warrants for persons suspected of related terrorism. This comes in tandem with a wide-ranging clampdown by security forces in Misrata, leading to the arrest, so far, of 16 accused persons. Observers believe that this development could reorder political and security calculations in western Libya where anarchy is still the order of the day.

Al-Sadiq Al-Sour’s press conference two weeks ago, in which he revealed details about the IS massacre of 20 Egyptian Copts in February 2015 and other details about the activities of the terrorist organisation and its leaders in various parts of Libya, indicates that the forthcoming period in Libya will experience a reordering of political and social alliances. In particular, the terrorist card is likely to disappear from the table of political usage among parties to the crisis, in light of the determination of the international community to re-engineer the Libyan scene by means of legislative and presidential elections in October next year.

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