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Next stop Geneva
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 01 - 09 - 2015

Libyan factions completed the latest round of UN-sponsored dialogue in the Moroccan resort town of Skhirat on Friday. The next round will be held at the Palais de Nations in Geneva, where participants will discuss the nominees for prime minister and other posts in the national consensus government that the UN mediator hopes the Libyan negotiators will create.
The latest Skhirat round was boycotted by the General National Congress (GNC), the parliament that resurrected itself in Tripoli but is not recognised internationally. The reason cited was that half its negotiating team needed to be changed following the resignation of the team's leader, Saleh Al-Makhzoum, and another team member, Mohamed Emazab.
Supporters of the House of Representatives, the internationally recognised parliament that was elected to succeed the GNC and that meets in Tobruk, claim that this was merely a ruse on the part of the GNC.
They say the delay is a bid to gain time in the hope that the Tobruk camp will suffer further damage from the internal rifts that have been plaguing it. The House is nearing the end of its constitutional term, set to expire on 21 October. The GNC has said that it will resume participation in the dialogue when it meets again in Geneva on 3 September.
The participants in the last Skhirat round last Thursday and Friday discussed the annexes of the draft agreement regarding the financial and administrative structures of the state. It was decided to defer the annex regarding security arrangements until after the creation of a national unity government, which should take place at the meeting in Geneva on 3 September.
Following the Geneva meeting, the participants will return to Skhirat to discuss security arrangements and announce the make-up of the consensus government. UN Envoy Bernardino Leon has set a two-week timeframe for these procedures.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described the last round of talks in Skhirat as taking place in a “positive and constructive atmosphere.” It noted that participants had agreed to accelerate their efforts in order to round up the dialogue that started seven months ago, reaffirming the need to reach a political settlement to the Libyan crisis without recourse to violence.
The UNSMIL press release added that the forthcoming session in Geneva on 3 September should pave the way to a final agreement that would be ready to sign in the forthcoming days.
Leon, who also heads UNSMIL, expressed his hope that the dialogue will continue constructively and move forward as rapidly as possible. “The time is running out quickly for Libya, which is facing continuing bloodshed, the increased terrorist threat from ISIL [Islamic State] and the collapse of its currency,” he warned.
“It is time that all leaders set aside their differences and put the welfare of the country first and work to create a national unity government quickly, as called for by the political agreement.”
Leon stated that this government will be capable of remedying Libya's problems, combatting terrorism, restoring stability and steering the country to economic recovery in partnership with the international community and with the overwhelming support of the Libyan people.
He also expressed his hope that the GNC will re-join the talks in Geneva after having absented itself from the last round. He added that UNSMIL will intensify its communications with the relevant Libyan factions to ensure as broad a participation as possible in the forthcoming round.
On Saturday, the House of Representatives negotiating team returned to Tobruk to inform the internationally recognised parliament on the latest developments in the dialogue process and discuss nominees for the premiership in the national unity government.
In a previous session, the House had decided to submit two candidates, but the UN mediator asked for six to eight nominees so as to broaden the choice. MP Issa Al-Aribi said that on Sunday the House had agreed on 12 candidates for membership in the national unity government, and to review the decision regarding the mechanism for selecting candidates for prime minister.
Instead of only two, the House revised the number to three or four from each region, thereby bringing the number up to 12. The representatives were urged to submit nominees in the session the following day.
In spite of the mounting discord in the House as the end of its term approaches, a large number of MPs from the Tripoli and Fezan regions in particular support the idea of continuing in the dialogue and extending the parliamentary term.
Divisions are even sharper among the ranks of the federalist deputies who have a majority in the eastern region known as Cyrenaica. This faction is strongly opposed to the creation of a military council and insists on using the 1951 Constitution as a frame-of-reference.
This constitution, which prevailed during the pre-Gaddafi monarchical era, divided the country in three provinces or states: Cyrenaica, Tripoli and Fezan.
In a related development, the Tobruk parliament failed for the fourth time to summon the Abdullah Al-Thinni government for questioning, exposing its inability to assert its control over that government. The acrimony has been mounting between the two sides as they exchanged charges of corruption against the backdrop of the security deterioration and deteriorating economy.
Although the GNC has announced that it will resume participation in the dialogue, it has revealed no information so far regarding its candidates for a national unity government. At the same time, some GNC members urged action to penalise individuals found to be responsible for obstructing the dialogue and efforts to resolve Libya's political crisis.
Militarily, the situation in Benghazi is much the same as it has been for over a year now, despite claims by officials that the army has nearly regained control over the city and driven out terrorist militias. Humanitarian conditions in the city are reported to be deteriorating further.
Differences of opinion have recently surfaced between UN officials and Libyan authorities over the nature of the dangers facing Libya. This was clear during the session in which Leon updated UN Security Council members on the current situation in Libya and the progress being made in the dialogue.
He drew attention, in particular, to the growing influence of Islamic State (IS), especially in the northern central region where the terrorist organisation has gained near total control over around 200 kilometres of the northern coast, from Nofaliya to Sirte.
A week ago on Wednesday, Libya's permanent delegate to the UN, Ibrhaim Al-Dabshi, told the Security Council that authorities in his country were using IS for security purposes and that the real danger was Al-Qaeda, not IS.
The UN envoy to Libya, on the other hand, stressed the need for the Libyan people to unite against IS. Such differences of opinion between local and international players could cast a shadow over the UN-sponsored negotiations that seek to restore peace and stability to Libya.


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