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In quest of national consensus
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 01 - 2017

“The ministers took note of the recent developments in Libya, stressing that there can be no alternative to adhering to political agreement, signed on 17 December 2015 in Skhirat, as the sole framework for the solution to the present crisis in Libya,” read the final communiqué of the 10th Ministerial Meeting of Countries Neighbouring Libya, held this week in Cairo.
In his address to the meeting Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri underlined that the Skhirat agreement represented the best exit from the current crisis in Libya and the only guarantee all parties will take part in the solution. The neighbouring states group, he said, is keen to coordinate with all concerned parties, including the UN envoy Martin Kobler.
“The issue is Libyan, the dialogue has to be among Libyan parties and any détente can only be concluded between them,” Shoukri said during the press conference that followed the meeting.
He added that Egypt was working to engineer a meeting between the national unity government headed by Fayez Serag, the parliament headed by Aqeela Saleh and the Libyan army commanded by General Khalifa Haftar.
Cairo has held several meeting with Libyan parties. The latest, involving Haftar and Egypt's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Hegazi held early this week, has paved the way for confidence building measures among the three main parties.
Serag's visit to Cairo earlier this month, during which he met with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Hegazi, served the same purpose.
Last month Libyan Parliamentary Speaker Saleh visited Egypt where he met with Al-Sisi and Shoukri.
These meetings reflect a genuine will to open a dialogue between the different parties in Libya, said a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity.
“These meeting can help build confidence among all parties. They now need to move on to discuss the few points of difference that must be resolved in order to implement the Skhirat agreement signed more than a year ago,” he said.
The differences include the size of the presidential council, with many arguing that the current nine members make it too unwieldy, the role of the army and the composition of the national dialogue committee.
The final communiqué of the ministerial meeting outlined the principles agreed by attending states. They include preserving the security, stability and unity of Libya, the rejection of foreign interference in Libyan affairs, preserving the coherence of the Libyan army and establishing a truly national police, reinforcing the principle of consensus without marginalisation or exclusion of any sectors of society and commitment to a comprehensive dialogue between all Libyan parties.
This week's meeting came on the heels of the Cairo Declaration which grew out of a summit hosted in Cairo and attended by 120 representatives of Libyan tribes and sects. The declaration, issued on 13 December, recommended some amendments to the Skhirat agreement, including a reconsideration of Article 8 which outlines the mandate of the army and the mechanisms needed to keep the military separate from political disagreements.
The declaration stressed the importance of maintaining Libyan territorial integrity and the need to preserve state institutions while upholding the principle of consensus within the framework of the rule of law.
This week's 10th ministerial meeting was chaired by Shoukri. The foreign ministers of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya — Abdel-Kader Messahel, Khemaies Jhinaoui and Mohamed Al-Taher Siala — attended the meeting.
Salamatou Lamido Ousseini represented Niger. Sudan and Chad were represented by their ambassadors in Cairo. Salaheddin Al-Gamali, the envoy of the secretary-general of the Arab League for Libya, also attended the meeting.
Ahmed Abul-Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, Kobler, head of UN Support Mission in Libya and Jakaya Kikwete, former president of Tanzania and the African Union's high representative for Libya, were also present.
Libya's neighbouring states include Egypt, which headed this week's 10th meeting, Algeria, the venue for the 11th meeting, Tunisia, Libya, Chad and Niger. Previous meetings have been held in Cairo, Ndjamena, Khartoum, Algiers, Tunis and Niamey.
Shoukri said there was continuous coordination between Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria over Libya and a committee is likely to be formed soon. The committee will hold meetings on foreign minister level to discuss the Libyan crisis and assess whether or not a tripartite summit between the three countries is necessary.

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