Recently, when the UN peace envoy Bernardino Leon arrived in Tobruk to hold talks with the speaker of the HoR, he was unable to exit the airport due to protesters and his plane left again.
The continued fighting between the military forces of each rival government and Haftar's open dismissal of dialogue and deliberate attacks before and during the UN dialogue show that a negotiated solution is unlikely. The long silence about the progress of the talks by the UN is also an ominous sign. We will see soon see if there is any hope after the new talks get underway.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) condemned the airport attacks but the UN's only form of punishment is a tongue-lashing since none of the big powers are willing to take any action against Haftar or the Tobruk government. UNSMIL and Leon have constantly urged both sides not to engage in battle as this is inconsistent with the aim of the dialogue to find a political solution and agreement on a ceasefire. However, the Tobruk government also began an offensive south of Tripoli. The Al-Thinni government said on Facebook that it had started an offensive to liberate Tripoli and its suburbs. This is completely contrary to any idea of a dialogue. The UN envoy can do nothing except express his disapproval of these actions. He called the clashes unacceptable and a serious threat to the dialogue.
The UN almost never assigns blame. Leon said that "both political actors and military actors should stop such actions". Leon does not say that the Libyan government bombed the Tripoli airport or started an offensive to take Tripoli. He says only that both actors should stop! UN reports often seem to come from another planet. They do, from Planet Correct Political Protocol. Leon, the UN envoy, is ever optimistic. He is hoping to have documents on a national unity government, security arrangements, and a national unity government ready and agreed upon by Sunday. With the ongoing attacks by the Islamic State in Libya and Tunisia Leon claims that the talks should be in a decisive round.
Certainly, it is in the interests of both sides to fight against the Islamic State(IS) since IS has launched attacks against both, in Tripoli-held areas as well as areas controlled by the Tobruk government. However, Haftar and the Al Thinni government see their fight against Tripoli as itself part of the war on terror. They have requested that the arms embargo that prevents shipments of weapons to Libya be lifted so that they can obtain weapons for their war on terror. Haftar together with his supporter President el-Sissi of Egypt cannot understand why the Libyan government is not getting the full support of the west in Haftar's war on Islamic terrorists.
So far the US and the UK and many other countries are pinning hopes on the formation of a unity government and a political solution that would lead to a unified battle against the Islamic State. Khalifa Haftar and the Tobruk government have other ideas. For them the war against the IS and against the Tripoli government and its militia are all part of the war on terror.
The Tobruk government refuses to talk directly with representatives of the Tripoli government since that government will not recognize Tobruk as the sole legitimate government. The head of the Tripoli representatives was in favour of direct talks between the two sides but the Tobruk government will not talk to a group that refuses to recognize it as the sole legitimate government. The Tripoli government does not recognize Tobruk because back on November 6th last year, the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the June elections were unconstitutional and that the Tobruk government should be dissolved. The UN said it was studying the matter as of last November. They have made no further statement on the issue.
The important powers do not want them to.
They are carrying on as usual with the press dutifully following along calling the Tobruk government the Libyan government and almost never mentioning the court decision in articles. Ironically, Al Thinni was prime minister of the Libyan transition government when last May Haftar launched Operation Dignity by attacking two Islamist bases in Benghazi. He called Haftar's action illegal and noted that there was a warrant out for Haftar's arrest for an attempted coup in February. Soon after Haftar's allies burned down parliament as part of Operation Dignity.
How things change.
Now the same Al-Thinni is prime minister of the Tobruk government. Instead of carrying out the arrest warrant he has made Haftar head of the armed forces. Haftar has shown nothing but contempt for the dialogue process describing the dialogue as talking with terrorists. Even if there is a political settlement and the Tobruk government agrees to a political solution, it seems unlikely that Haftar will stop trying to defeat the Tripoli government forces.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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