Absence of HoR team stymies Libya Dialogue meeting in Tunisia

By Libya Herald reporters.

Tunis/Hammamet, 22 January 2017:

Moves by the UN-brokered Libya Dialogue meeting in the Tunisian town of Hammamet to assess the progress of the Presidency Council and look into possible changes to parts of the Libyan Political Agreement were severely set back today by the absence of the delegation from the House of Representatives.

The delegation, led by the parliament’s deputy president Emhemed Shouaib, remained in Tunis, apparently following an order from Ageela Saleh not to attend. Reports that Shouaib was planning to fly back to Tobruk during the day for consultations with Ageela Saleh have not been confirmed.

According to HoR spokesman Abdullah Bulaihak, Shouaib and others on the team were no longer the HoR’s official representatives. A new team would have to be chosen to replace them, he said. But that would not happen before tomorrow at the earliest.

Most members of the Dialogue had already gathered in Hammamet and, despite the HoR teams’ absence, opted to start their deliberations. However, the only decision they have taken so far is to ask the HoR to let them know who the new team will comprise.

Discussions are supposed to cover proposals to reduce the Presidency Council’s size – from nine members to three – and its powers. Instead of the head of the council also being prime minister the two deputy presidents being deputy premiers, there would be a separate prime minister in change of his own cabinet. The idea has the support of Ageela Saleh and many members of the HoR.

However, without HoR representation on the Dialogue, it is thought that there is no chance that anything it decides will be accepted by the HoR, even if it happens to be what the HoR wants.

It is not clear whether a replacement team will be ready to join them by Tuesday at the earliest or, indeed, that one would be accepted by UN special envoy Martin Kobler. As a UN-backed body, membership of the Dialogue is at Kobler’s invitation, not as a result of an HoR decision.

Names may not be such as problem as size of the delegation. Ageela Saleh is known to want a five-person HoR team while the previous team had just four.

Complicating matters further, there is no unanimity within the HoR over who should be on the new team. The HoR president has his ideas, but the choice has to be approved by the HoR.

For his part, Kobler did not attend today’s meeting either but nothing untoward is being read into this. The Hammamet meeting could not have taken place without the active involvement of UNSMIL which organised the venue, Dialogue members’ plane tickets and their accommodation.

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