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Leon nears goal
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 17 - 09 - 2015

UN Envoy to Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Bernardino Leon is reported to be very close to reaching a final agreement between the Libyan factions that have been meeting in Skhirat, Morocco, since last Thursday.
But there is still a strong possibility that the talks could collapse, despite the UN envoy's arduous efforts to bring the rival factions to an accord over the draft agreement. The agreement, initialled by most of them on 12 July, would see the creation of a national unity government by 20 September.
Over three intensive days last weekend, the UN envoy succeeded in reaching a consensual formula with the negotiating team of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC). The party had refused to initial the draft agreement, unlike all the other Libya dialogue participants.
The GNC persuaded the UN envoy to alter the draft agreement to include its proposals and amendments before the date set for the final signature and agreement on the new government. The most important amendment relates to the GNC, which will be renamed the Council of State.
According to the new agreement, the council will be made up of 145 members, of whom 134 will be current GNC members, plus 11 others approved by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives. The amendments also addressed the role of the GNC/Council of State in forming the new consensus government.
It was also agreed to keep a number of key positions in this government open at the time of signing, a point that was strongly opposed by the House of Representatives. It refuses to retract its previous resolutions against the GNC and against the Libya Dawn forces which, in October 2014, it categorised as terrorist.
Although the House of Representatives refuses to capitulate to the GNC demand to rescind those decisions, the fact that the House's negotiating team returned to Libya from Skhirat with a modified copy of the draft agreement is likely to have an impact on the body in Tobruk.
The parliament is in the grips of confusion, with sharp rifts between its members. This has rendered it incapable of resolving many issues, most notably the deteriorating security and living conditions in the areas under its control.
The Tobruk parliament has also been unable to dismiss or reshuffle the government led by Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni, which has been clinically dead since it was first created by parliament.
On Sunday morning, the House of Representative's negotiating team announced that it had received new proposals from UNSMIL and that it would consider them seriously. It stressed that the final decision regarding them rested with the House, rather than with the negotiating team members, and that the proposals and annexes must not conflict with the main body of the draft agreement.
It also held that the agreement must be signed on the agreed deadline of 20 September. As well, the proposals, including the names of candidates for the national unity government, must be incorporated as part of the comprehensive agreement.
The House of Representatives asked the GNC to submit the names of its candidates within two days and said that all the participants in the Libyan dialogue had to accept these proposals.
Abu Bakr Baeera, a negotiator for the House of Representatives, said that his team would agree to the GNC amendment regarding the Council of State, and added that the House and the GNC were nearing consensus.
This offered an indication that Leon has, indeed, made some tangible progress over the weekend, against a backdrop of intensive speculation on the fate of the dialogue process and media reports discussing the approaching departure of Leon from his mission in Libya.
The head of the GNC negotiating team, Awad Abdel Sadeq, stressed that the final agreement will include the GNC's proposals, putting paid to widespread rumours on Sunday that the GNC will withdraw again from the dialogue and return to Tripoli.
On Sunday, Leon announced that the main participants in the Libyan dialogue have reached a consensus on the key elements. He said that UNSMIL is finalising the text of the main body of the draft agreement. It will be presented to the negotiating teams before they head back to Tripoli and Tobruk.
Leon expressed his hopes that the final text will gain the support of the GNC in Tripoli and the House in Tobruk before being ratified by other parties in the coming days.
At a press conference convened by Leon at dawn Sunday in Skhirat, he praised the participants for placing the welfare of their nation above all other considerations. This was an important day for the Libyan people, thanks to the flexibility demonstrated by all participant parties during this round of the dialogue, he said.
The UN envoy told the press that there were “six, seven or eight” points that were the subject of contention between the participants. “But they were able to discuss them and overcome their differences,” he said.
Leon observed that some of the modifications that will be incorporated into the basic agreement might bother some parties, but he urged these parties to respond favourably toward them. He added that the factions will have 48 hours to review and discuss the final text, after which they will return to Skhirat to submit the names of their candidates for the national consensus government.
Meanwhile, back in Libya, Sallouq, to the west of Benghazi, is to host a convention of Libyan tribes. The meeting was originally scheduled to be held in Cairo last Wednesday and was to have been attended by Leon.
However, gunmen believed by some Libyan sources to belong to the forces of General Khalifa Haftar prevented the plane that was to carry the Libyan participants to Cairo from taking off from Abraq Airport in eastern Libya.
The Sallouq convention is expected to be the largest of its kind and attract broad participation. However, political disputes have been a source of annoyance to conference organisers.
In what appeared to be an attempt to test the pulse on the creation of a military council, some pro-Haftar websites reported that the General Command of the Libyan army will not recognise any political bodies after the end of the term of the House. This has been read as an indication of Haftar's desire to monopolise power, in spite of his failure for the second year running to secure control over Benghazi.
Although the Libyan Army General Command denies that it has any pages on social networking sites, it did not deny Haftar's determination to remain a chief part of the political scene in the forthcoming phase.
Also, acrimonious disputes between Al-Thinni's government, the House of Representatives and the Haftar-led Army Command seem to be propelling toward the removal of Haftar, especially in light of the mounting allegations of corruption and human rights violations being levelled against his camp.
In western Libya, despite local reconciliations that have resulted in a ceasefire and a substantial halt to the hostilities there, skirmishes flared again between Libya Dawn forces and the army of tribes that have temporarily allied with Haftar, even though he does not recognise the arrangements that emerged in Libya following the 17 February Revolution.


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