By Hadi Fornaji and Hussein Mohamed.
Tunis/Tobruk, 26 March 2015:
UN special envoy Bernardino Leon was in upbeat mood as the UN-brokered talks . . .[restrict]in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat were again adjourned to allow the delegates from the House of Representatives (HoR) and the General National Congress (GNC) to return to Tobruk and Tripoli respectively and discuss the latest proposals for interim political structures in Libya with their colleagues. They are supposed to return with agreement in around 10 days with for what will be the fourth session in Skhirat.
“We have an agreement on the scope of issues, the scope of institutions, aspects we are going to deal with in the coming weeks,” he said this evening, claiming that “very important progress” had been made during the week and tat the delegates had achieved far more than had been expected. The participants felt that they were getting very close to an agreement, he added.
The parties have welcomed proposals published two days ago by UNSMIL as a basis for future discussion, Leon said.
- A unity government headed by a president, and a Presidential Council composed of independent personalities not belonging to any party or affiliated with any group, and are acceptable to all parties and by all Libyans. The main members of the Presidential Council will be the president and his two deputies.
- The House of Representatives as a legislative body representing all Libyans under the full application of principles of legitimacy and inclusion.
- A High State Council inspired by similar institutions existing in a number of countries. A fundamental institution in the governance of the State
- The Constitutional Drafting Assembly.
A mechanism of cooperation between these institutions will be agreed on to achieve consensus at this critical stage.
- National Security Council.
- Municipalities Council.
The last two proposed bodies, UNSMIL said, would be shaped in the later stages of the talks.
Yesterday, at a press conference, Leon said that there had been changes to the proposals but did not explain what they were. He appeared, nonetheless, extremely upbeat about progress at the dialogue although he noted that things could still go wrong. “
You know, always the last miles are the most difficult ones,” he warned. He added that he expected “to finalise documents” taking into account the changes “and to have a first exchange of views on the names [of government members]”.
However according to Sharif Al-Wafi, one of the participants at Skhirat, no names for the unity government have been official discussed so far.
Despite the fact that the proposals as set out by UNSMIL represent a clear victory for the HoR, whose role as the only legitimate parliament is endorsed by clause No. 2, Leon and the four HoR delegates may have a difficult time selling it to other members of the House.
There is deepening opposition among members to the dialogue. That was demonstrated on Monday evening when, before heading back to Skhirat following his meeting in Brussels with representatives from municipalities from across Libya, Leon flew first to Tobruk then Tripoli for discussions with the HoR and the continuing GNC on the shape and membership of a government of national unity. In Tobruk, the HoR president, Ageela Saleh Gwaider, snubbed him, saying (according to HoR sources) that he was too busy to meet him. He was also prevented by protestors from leaving the airport.
“I think the HoR will reject the proposals although they will continue to engage with the dialogue”, said a source in Tobruk extremely close to the HoR who did not want his name mentioned. He noted that at Monday’s session there had been considerable antagonism among members towards the UN and the dialogue. One of the reasons for the opposition, he said, is a view that the proposals in fact undermine the HoR’s authority – such as powers of the president of the HoR as commander-in-chief.
These would presumably either be transferred to the president of the government or the presidential council.
If the HoR is to be persuaded, he added, the proposals would need considerable clarification.
Congress on the other hand, he believed, would definitely reject the proposals because its legitimacy was denied.
One of the HoR members opposed to the dialogue, Sirte HoR member Abubakr Al-Ghazali, claimed that it no longer has any use, and that the HoR was continuing with it purely as a “courtesy gesture” to the UN.
“As members of the national parliament we reject this dubious dialogue which is sponsored by countries involved in a conspiracy against Libya,” he said. He named the countries as the US and the UK. The HoR could pursue its own dialogue with the support of Libya tribes, he said, but adding that “we reserve the right to the military option”.
Despite the pessimism in Tobruk, Sharif Al-Wafi was in the opposite mood this evening, saying that by the time Skhirat 4 is convened in 10 day’s time, both sides will have agreed to the proposals. “I think they [the HoR] will accept it,” he told the Libya Herald, “because it recognises the HoR’s legitimacy.”
As to Congress, “they don’t have much choice,” he said. Their prime concern, he stated, was to have a say on who is in the next government. If they rejected the deal, they would get nothing, he predicted.
While the two delegations head back to Tobruk and Tripoli for discussion, Leon is flying to another seaside resort at the other side of the Arab world, to Sharm El Sheikh, to join in Arab leaders taking part in the Arab Summit. Libya will be a major issue at the summit.
Arab Foreign Ministers are already there. [/restrict]