Libya slips further into chaos as impasse drags on

Libya slips further into chaos as impasse drags on
Analysis: Geneva talks will not lead to a breakthrough unless Libyans are willing to compromise, and regional parties are forced to end their involvement in the violence.
5 min read
03 September, 2015
Dialogue between Libyans needs a willingness to compromise
Libya is still in the violent grips of political impasse, despite the many "dialogue sessions" hosted by UN envoy Bernardino Leon.

Negotiators have been unable to make a breakthrough to establish some kind of settlement between the country's rival parliaments - the General National Congress in Tripoli whose term has officially expired, and the Tobruk-based parliament that has officially been dissolved by the Constitutional Court.

Mediators are attempting to get agreement over a new national unity government that could close the widening political and military divide.

The country's challenges make it unlikely that Thursday's dialogue session in Geneva will reach any decisive results - particularly in light of the ambiguous outcome of Tuesday's talks in Turkey between the GNC and Leon.

The GNC did not attend talks that were held last week in Morocco.

Following the talks in Turkey, Leon called on the GNC to move forward "to continue to try to find a solution as soon as possible," AFP reported. "We have little time and we have to expedite the final solution," he added.
   What's been going on in Libya?

The General National Congress was the Islamist-led elected body ruling Libya for two years following Gaddafi's ousting and death. After its 18-month deadline to form a new constitution passed in January 2014, the body resolved to extend its mandate.

General Khalifa Haftar, a senior figure in the forces that toppled Gaddafi, called on the GNC to disband. In May, Haftar led troops against Islamist militias in Benghazi and the GNC in Tripoli in an offensive named Operation Dignity.

Amid the chaos, an election was held to form the House of Representatives, which took power from the GNC in August. With rival militias ruling Libya's streets, the election turnout was just 18 percent. Islamist militias then launched Operation Libya Dawn to fight Haftar's troops.

With the lack of security in the capital, the House of Representatives hired a Greek car ferry harboured in the eastern city of Tobruk as a temporary legislature.

In late August, a group of GNC members reconvened in Tripoli and claimed legislative authority over the country, effectively replacing the House of Representatives as Libya's parliament. The Tobruk-based House of Representatives remains the internationally recognised government, though its actual authority on the ground in Libya is limited.

Libya's Supreme Court, based in Islamist-held Tripoli, ruled in November that the formation of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional, legally dissolving the Tobruk-based legislature and nullifying its decisions.

The Tobruk-based parliament refused to accept the court's ruling, saying it was made "at gunpoint".

Libya remains torn between the rival parliaments and the heavily armed militias that support each. Allegiances between the militias change frequently, which only adds to the instability, violence and danger faced by ordinary Libyan citizens.

The GNC reportedly insists on including its amendments in the draft political agreement and not the annexes that are attached to it, as proposed by the UN envoy.

The GNC argues that including the amendments in the draft agreement guarantee their implementation and creates a balance to reach a political settlement.

Libyan analysts say the solution is no longer domestic, warning that if the international community did not intervene in whatever time was left, it would find itself facing difficult choices as the crisis becomes ever more complicated.

Saad Makhzoum from the Libya for Democracy Party said the lack of cohesion among the international community contributed to the delay in ending the Libyan crisis.

"There is no indication yet that major countries that have emphasised the importance of forming a national unity government are in agreement over a mechanism for exerting pressure to reach an active Libyan dialogue," Makhzoum said.

"Add to that the emergence of individual actions by some major countries that supported one side against the other," Makhzoum added.

Makhzoum says a successful and fruitful Libyan dialogue requires controlling and neutralising regional stances, as the conflict widens with the participation of "regional parties".

He said that if regional parties were forced to end their involvement in Libya, this would mean "an agreement by international parties over a clear vision towards a solution based on the values of democracy and respect for sovereign institutions, and an accurate definition for terrorism that does not involve double standards in condemning it".

Leon's remarks that Libya was close to a national unity agreement were "optimistic and premature," said Makhzoum.

"[It is] clear that Leon does not have a consensus model that would satisfy both sides," he added.

Libyan journalist Izz al-Din Farkash says forcing regional parties to end their involvement in the Libyan crisis means weakening the dependence of both sides on the military option.

Farkash also said that excuses given by GNC officials for not attending the Morocco dialogue session were without merit.
Leon does not have a consensus model that would satisfy both sides
- Saad Makhzoum, Libya for Democracy

The GNC, meanwhile, said that two of its delegates had resigned. "The GNC still insists on including its amendments in the draft political agreement, which it refused to sign," Farkash told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"The attendance of 20 members of the GNC at a meeting with Leon in Turkey confirms its ability to participate in the previous session [in Morocco] if it had wished to do so," Farkash said.

"The GNC, despite the sharp differences among its members, is still able to impose its views and demands because it controls the capital, Tripoli, and a majority of vital positions, as well as having a strong military arm."

Farkash said that the Tobruk government was "still not aware of the importance of containing GNC representatives and listening to them".

In light of such strategies, said Farkash, future dialogue sessions will be meaningless and "will not come out with new results in the short run, because dialogue simply needs a real will to agree and a serious willingness to compromise".

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.