Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Press conference of Martin Kobler Special Representative of Secretary General in Libya

After a meeting with members of the State Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) held a press conference.

Excerpts from the conference are published on the website of the United Nations Support Mission in LIbya (UNSMIL). Kobler starts out by expressing condolences to those who lost relatives in the recent offensive of Misrata militia groups against the Islamic State east and south of Misrata. However, he uses the losses to argue how "urgent the situation here in Libya to come to an agreement on how to implement the Libyan Political Agreement and to go the way of peace and prosperity in this country." Notice he cannot bother to be specific about who is to come to agreement with whom but adds in the emotively useful phrase "peace and prosperity." He uses a tragic loss to press for his own political agenda of having everyone unite behind the GNA.
Kobler stresses the importance of implementing the Libya Political Agreement (LPA), noting that all the ministers at the recent Vienna meeting agreed on this:The Libyan political agreement needs three strong institutions, the Presidency Council, the House of Representatives and the State Council. We had very good, very extensive, and very frank discussions on these questions. It is important that these institutions go ahead to serve the people, to provide them food, to provide them electricity and to pass the necessary laws for it because also Ramdan is right in front of the table and there are many economic problems here in the country.
However, it makes no sense of talking about the HoR going ahead as part of the GNA since it does not recognize the GNA and will not until it has taken a formal vote of confidence and amended the constitutional declaration of 2011. Kobler mentions the necessity of the passing of an amendment to the constitutional declaration. He recognizes in effect the State Council is not yet legal, although he does not exactly put it that way. The State Council can fully function only if the constitutional amendment is passed in its entirety. In addition, the House of Representatives has to pass the Constitutional Amendment in order to give full strength to the SC here in Tripoli. Of course, there are different perceptions now in the country about the State Council and as United Nations and as a member of the international community I would like to assist both State Council and the House of Representatives and others in order to bring the different views together.Note that Kobler says that the State Council "cannot fully function" unless the amendment is "passed in its entirety." Of course Kobler does not clarify why the State Council cannot fully do its job without the amendment or if he thinks that the amendment has been partially passed. Probably he is referring to the fact that at a meeting of the State Council, it convened first as the rival parliament to Tobruk the General National Congress (GNC) and passed the required amendment to the constitutional declaration and then voted in favor of the GNA before dissolving itself and transforming the meeting to one of the State Council. Perhaps this is to be thought of as a "partial amendment" to the declaration that now needs to be amended in its entirety by the HoR. Kobler says he needs to bring Libyans together as the HoR.and supporters have some of those " different perceptions now in the country" about the Council. Among these perceptions are that the process of establishing the State Council was illegal. The Council, a mainly advisory body is composed of former members of the General National Congress, including many Islamists opposed by the HoR and Haftar, commander in chief of the associated Libyan National Army.
Kobler says that the State Council and the HoR are like twins. The problem is that the HoR already exists and up to now has shown no desire to be reborn as the GNA legislature until the GNA mother agrees that the father of the HoR, Khalifa Haftar, be given proper recognition as the commander in the chief of any new Libyan National Army(LNA).
Kobler says that politics, not military developments on the ground, should determine guidelines for the way forward: "That’s why it is very important that the politicians sit together, members of the State Council and members of the HoR; the presidents of both, SC and HoR, together with the Prime Minister to tackle the very urgent problems in the country." This appears to recognize the HoR as a partner, yet it is a parallel institution no longer supposed to be recognized or to be dealt with according to what was urged at the Vienna meetings. Whether, Kobler likes it or not the military situation on the ground will be an important factor in bargaining between Haftar and the HoR and the UN-backed GNA. Kobler and the GNA know this, which is why exemptions to the arms embargo will only apply to forces loyal to the GNA and not Haftar. Haftar has ways of getting weapons without the embargo being lifted however.
Kobler claims the military situation can only be tackled by "united Libyans." This is simply not true. The situation is being tackled even though not efficiently without unity. What bothers Kobler is that Haftar is fighting on his own terms attacking Derna, securing oil fields, and clearing out pockets of Islamist resistance in Benghazi. Kobler wants him to attack the main stronghold of Sirte but so far Haftar has not. Kobler never mentions Haftar by name.
Kobler claims Libya's main problem is fragmentation and division. It could never be that this is in part caused by his own single-minded attempt to impose the GNA on many who resist it and see it as a foreign imposition. Of course he simply rejects such "perceptions":The Political developments must be much faster and the political dialogue among all political stakeholders is a must. I also requested from the members of the State Council to give me ideas what they expect from the international community. We are here to support you, not to replace your decisions. This is Libya. These are your institutions, and this is your agreement, and these must be your decisions and we are here to help you and to support you.
As Kobler himself said many times the time for dialogue is long over and that the LPA cannot be amended. By dialogue he means talks that using threats or rewards convinces those opposed to support the LNA. If you don't agree the international community will help you and support you by imposing sanctions on you, or making sure you do not get any arms legally. In answer to a question Kobler said: Our task is to stop the bloodletting and to sit together. It is very clear that the weapons embargo is on all over the country, everybody must respect this weapons embargo. Now you have the Presidency Council and a very clear guideline that the Government of National Accord will be in place and that the Presidency Council is the Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army. Regular forces under the leadership of the Presidency Council can be exempted from the weapons embargo of the United Nations. This process has to be expedited. The PC issued already some decisions concerning the operation centre, but also concerning the structure of the future Libyan Army, and all stakeholders must be reflected in this joint Libyan army.Kobler made it clear that these "regular forces" would come from all areas of Libya. As it is now, the GNA depends upon militia for security. Khalifa Haftar has made it clear that he will never unite with militia groups. Even if some of them were to meld into the regular forces it is doubtful if Haftar would unite with them. Note that Kobler explicitly states that the PC is Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army, a feature of the LPA that the PC studiously ignored since just a while ago. Haftar and the HoR reject the sections of the LPA which give the PC this power.
Kobler presents no plan for having the HoR approve the GNA and pass the amendment. He did not suggest when and where a meeting should be. A planned meeting at Ghadames did not take place. I expect that Kobler will try again to gather together members of the HoR without those opposed to the GNA. However, even those in favor demand that Haftar remain as commander-in-chief.