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News, March 2019
Sirraj and Hafter Agree, in Abu Dhabi Meeting, on Basic Principles to Unify Libya After Elections
March 12, 2019
Presidential Council head in Qatar to discuss Libya’s political deadlock
Libya Observer, March 10, 2019 - Written By: AbdullahBenIbrahim
Chairman of Presidential Council Fayez Sarrja held talks in the Qatari capital of Doha on Sunday with the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Ahmad Al Thani on the two countries’ relations and the latest political developments in Libya.
According to the media office of Presidential Council, Sarraj highlighted the political solution to Libya’s crisis on the basis of a civilian state and unity of state institutions.
He also called for new elections by the end of this year according to the action plan of UN envoy Ghassan Salame.
“The Chairman of Presidential Council expressed his hope that Qatar and other friendly countries will unify their stances towards the Libyan crisis and work in this direction,” the media office adds.
Qatar News Agency reported that the talks focused on the prominent regional and international developments, adding that Sheikh Tamim has reaffirmed Qatar's firm and supportive stance for Libya' unity and stability.
Serraj met Hafter in Abu Dhabi as part of a wide political consultation process
By Sami Zaptia.
Libya Herald London, 7 March 2019:
Faiez Serraj, head of Libya’s Presidential Council and Government of National Accord, revealed that he held his Abu Dhabi meeting with Khalifa Hafter, Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), as part of a wide consultation proccess with all parties on the Libyan political arena.
The revelation was made yesterday through his official personal spokesperson, Mohamed El-Sallak, during the weekly press conference held at the Media Department of the Prime Minister’s office in Tripoli.
Serraj was responding to some criticism on his Hafter meeting and the agreement that came out of it.
There is still a section of Libya that totally rejects and distrusts Hafter, and sees any meeting with him as a form of support and reaffirmation of his central status in Libyan politics.
These critics see Hafter as a slippery hypocrite who is on the one hand paying lip service to elections and democracy while his forces creep slowly but surely from southern Libya towards his ultimate target: Tripoli.
Respondng to this, Serraj said that he had met Hafter in order to prevent the spilling of blood and to reach a formula to avoid the country falling into conflict and military escalation.
Serraj stressed that the Abu Dhabi Hafter agreement offers the possibility of building further upon it. He did not expand on that.
He confirmed that the Hafter agreement included the curtailment of the transitional stage Libya is stuck in since 2011, the unification of state institutions, and the completion of parliamentary and presidential elections before the end of this year.
In addition, it was agreed for the need to provide the appropriate environment for conducting elections and to support the efforts of the UN envoy Ghassan Salame this regard.
Serraj also insisted on a number of constants, foremost among which is a civilian Libyan state, a non-military solution to the Libyan crisis, the peaceful circulation/transfer of power, and preventing any attempts to create sedition that would bring Libyan cities into civil war.
Serraj stressed that there is no alternative to dialogue, negotiation, reconciliation and bridging the rift between all Libyans of all walks of life for the sake of peace and stability.
He noted that the alternative would only be a destructive war that would affect all equally with no winner and with the whole country, its people and its capabilities being the losers stressing that Libya is big enough for all its citizens and will be built with the hands of its sons and not their sponsors.
Serraj added that in parallel to the political effort, work has been done to alleviate the suffering of citizens through two simultaneous programmes of economic and security reform, explaining the emergence of some positive results of the economic reforms, represented by a reduction of the deficit, and a gradual decline in the hard currency black market exchange rate, stressing that this is a first phase that will be followed by other agreed phases.
With regard to the so-called Security Arrangements, Serraj said that the Ministry of the Interior, its agencies and all Regional Military Zones were endeavouring to complete the security arrangements successfully and to overcome any obstacles or difficulties encountered in completing them and their success in the establishment of security.
The Security Arrangements, it will be recalled, are the security policies enshrined in the 2015 Skhirate Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) which prescribed that upon entering Libya, the Presidency Council and Government of National Accord were to implement a policy whereby militias are replaced by a regular army and police and the militias’s weapons were to be removed out of all urban centres.
On the Sharara oilfield, Serraj confirmed the fruitful cooperation with the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to find possible solutions in this regard, noting that it was agreed to establish security arrangements under the supervision of the NOC and to remove all (armed Libyan) civilians from the oilfield, where force majeure had been lifted two days earlier.
Serraj reveals more details of Abu Dhabi Hafter agreement
By Sami Zaptia.
Libya Herald, London, 6 March 2019:
During his meeting with Mayors of Libya’s western region yesterday, Presidency Council and Government of National Accord head, Faiez Serraj, confirmed the following points agreed upon at the Abu Dhabi meeting with Libyan National Army (LNA) Commander Khalifa Hafter:
1-The emphasis on Libya being a civilian state.
2-Curtailing the current transitional period of weak government, state institutions and contested legitimacy.
3-Working to unify the state’s institutions such as the Central Bank of Libya.
4-Cessation of hate and incitement speach and narrative.
5-Presidential and parliamentary elections to be held before the end of 2019.
6-Peaceful transfer of power.
7-Separation of powers.
8-The continuation of meetings and follow-up on the agreed points.
The points did not mention the sentative and controversial issue of Hafter’s desire to lead Libya’s future unified army.
It leaves it open to speculation if Hafter was promised such a role, or any other role, or whether Hafter plans to stand for any future elections.
Either way, if elections are indeed held this year, any agreement would be void as the results of the election and the winners of power will determine what will happen next.
In view of the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion of Libyan politicians, it is not clear why Hafter and Serraj did not hold an instant press conference in Abu Dhabi to reveal the details of their agreement an allay the fears of the sceptical Libyan public.
It will be recalled that the hitherto opaque Abu Dhabi agreement had been met with suspicion and criticism, especially by Hafter’s opponents.
Hafter has over the years made a number of contradictory statements about the viability of democracy in Libya which makes his opponents sceptical of any pronouncements of his suport for a civilian state, elections and democracy.
Military ramp-up around Libya's Sirte as Haftar's forces claim advance
Libya Observer, March 11, 2019 - Written By: AbdulkaderAssad
After claims by the forces under Khalifa Haftar's command to have been positioned on the outskirts of Sirte or at least nearby it, a remarkable military buildup has been reported in the city that is located in central Libya.
Sirte Protection Force (SPF) announced Sunday the state of emergency after the advance of Haftar's self-styled army forces near southern Sirte.
The SPF added in a statement that it had tasked patrols to be present in areas 90km to south and wast of Sirte, saying Haftar's forces advance is unacceptable provocation.
"The advance of Haftar's forces is a security violation of the administrative borders of Sirte." SPF's commander Al-Naas Abdullah said.
Haftar's forces withdrew from different areas in southern Libya leaving behind a security vacuum and heading toward central Libyan areas like Al-Jufra in an attempt to advance with a new military operation in the west - especially in Tripoli.
While a source close to Haftar's forces believed that the movements near Sirte aim to be some sort of test of abilities to the forces there, Haftar's general command said brigadier general Abdelsalam Al-Hassi arrived in Watya airbase - 140km away from Tripoli.
Al-Hassi held a high ranking meeting with western military officers, adding that he arrived in Watya with Edris Madi coming from Al-Jufra airbase.
"Al-Hassi had been discussing the developments to take place in western Libya before he went to an oilfield in Hamada town." The general command added.
Former Chief of Staff Yousef Al-Mangoush described Haftar's movements as "dubious" and that his fighting terrorism slogan is "nonsensical."
"Fighting terrorism is not with tanks and artillery but with tactics to be approved by the interior ministry. What will Haftar's tanks do to the densely-populated Libyan capital." Al-Mangoush added.
He said that the numbers of forces in west Libya are way more than Haftar expects and they won't allow his forces to enter the western region or Tripoli and if they insisted, the region will be plunged into a destructive war.
"Haftar's claims of advancing on Tripoli are just a political card, but military should be separated from political as in the west, which harbors over two thirds of army forces." He remarked.
Russian-Backed Warlord Haftar Now Controls Two-Thirds of Oil-Rich Libya
11 Mar 2019
Gen. Khalifa Haftar, the head of the breakaway government’s Libyan National Army (LNA), gained control of two-thirds of Libya – including most border crossings and the majority of onshore oil fields – after sweeping through the North African country’s southern region in recent weeks, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The Guardian article came on the same day that the U.N.-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli declared a state of emergency in the north-central coastal city of Sirte following reports of LNA forces marching towards the region.
In a statement calling on all fighters loyal to the GNA to duty against Haftar’s forces, the Sirte Protection Force (SPF) affiliated with the U.N.-brokered government declared, “Any attack on the city will mean a declaration of war and its consequences will turn into a disaster.”
Libyan Elections: Are The Abu Dhabi Meetings A Turning Point?
Euroasia Review, Geop, March 12, 2019
By Paolo Zucconi
Libyan Prime Minister Al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar met in Abu Dhabi few days ago. Can this meeting be the chance for new elections in Libya?
Eight years after Qaddafi’s fall, Libya remains in a chaotic state based on the fragmentation of power. The faultlines and conflicts are numerous: between West and East Libya (Tripoli and Tobruk), suburban clashes in strategic cities like Misrata, Sirte, Benghazi, and tribal conflicts (especially in the Fezzan, where foreign interference of Chadian and Nigerien militants in the Tebu tribes increase tribal tensions to control the region). All of this affects the state-building process and national reconciliation. New trends have emerged since 2013, such as changes in the dynamics of illegal cross-border enterprise, especially the rise of human smuggling and alleged illegal inward migration into southern Libya.
State fragility and deep instability, and the emergence of informal security providers and other non-state armed actors actively encouraged the outsourcing of the security sector due to the lack of an inclusive military command structure. In Libya this has been more of a bottom-up process as national armed forces have lost internal cohesion, while diverse armed actors have become integral to security arrangements (mostly informal) and have almost acquired a legitimate status thanks to de facto legitimization by state authorities.
Since the 2011 revolution, the United Nations (UN) developed an Action Plan to stabilize Libya, but its implementation is extremely difficult. The UN envoy in Libya, Ghassam Salamé, is pushing the two main political leaders Al-Serraj (leader of the UN-backed government) and Haftar (leader of the opposing Libyan National Army) to meet. Prominent academic Ghassam Salamé, the Libyan Prime Minister Al-Serraj, and Haftar met in Abu Dhabi a few days ago and agreed to promote political elections in the country to begin a stabilization process. At the same time, Ahmed Maitig, the strongman of Misrata (a strategic city for Libya’s future), met Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Moavero-Milanesi on March 5 to discuss the economic situation in Libya, strategies to manage migration flows and the possible re-opening of the Italian consulate in Benghazi.
It looks as though there are significant diplomatic efforts underway to change the current situation, and the meetings in Abu Dhabi may represent a significant step toward stabilization. However, the U.N. has not yet announced any format or timeline for the national conference, an event that is considered important for agreeing to electoral terms and conditions. Salamé mentioned the necessity of this conference after the Palermo summit of last November. Moreover, these meetings take place under international pressure and this is not something that many local tribes support.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) has started a new military offensive in the key region of Fezzan. According to Haftar, this offensive was necessary to fight terrorists, criminals, and human trafficking. The LNA, supported by the Tebu and Tuareg tribes, occupied Sabha (the main city in the region) and the important El Sharara oil field. However, according to Libya Observer, West Libya’s elder councils in Misrata and Zintan made clear the need to build a civilian state based on constitution and unified army and police forces under a civilian authority.
Western local actors (i.e. tribes in Misrata and Zintan) will not accept Haftar as leader of any unified national army, especially considering he is now consolidating his influence in the South. They see these meetings and possible agreements as a threat against the legitimate state-building process. The reinvigorated contrast between western groups, tribes, and Haftar risks jeopardizing the current Salamé-led efforts for a national conference and elections. We may be at the turning point in the local political dynamics, but the situation is highly complex and fluid. Should Al-Sarraj and Haftar get a political agreement, this might be opposed by key local actors in West Libya, leading to further divisions, polarization, and potentially fueling military responses.
Libyan governance framework has often changed over the course of history, but tribes always played a key role in any state-building process (i.e. Ottoman era, Italian occupation, Qadhafi’s regime). When a top-down state-building process was instituted, tribes mobilized to resist it. The Italian occupation is a stereotype. Until 1935, Italians leaned on tribal governance. After 1935, they decided to centralize power and unify the three main regions: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan. This was a huge mistake. The exclusion of tribes from political institutions strengthened tribal affiliations and affected Italian administration’s power framework.
Tribes’ resilience needs to be take into account by international actors involved in political negotiations. Underestimating the role of tribes in efforts for stabilization can have bad consequences. Developing a top-down government can be a mistake. An agreement between Al-Serraj and Haftar might be a positive achievement from an international point of view and establish a basis for national reconciliation, but western actors in Libya see it differently.
Whereas national reconciliation may guarantee more stable institutions and Libya’s future as a country, tribes and municipalities need to be the key part of this process and be integrated into the security sector reform and reconstruction process.
From the most recent meetings, two issues emerged. The willingness to develop a centralized governance trough a top-down process as well as the further weakening of Al-Serraj and the strengthening of Haftar as leader. This could compromise peace efforts, especially should tribes have a minor role in core political negotiations. Any top-down state-building process may fail as has happened in the past.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Geopoliticalmonitor.com or any institutions with which the authors are associated.
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