GNC in the Hot Seat as UN Deal Is Initialed
After several months of on and off negotiations across two continents and an unspecified number of sessions, the UNSMIL sponsored peace agreement has been finally initialed on Sunday 12 July in the Moroccan town of Skhirat, where talks moved since leaving Geneva last Spring. The initialing ceremony undertaken last Sunday, however, was characterized by the absence of all representatives from the rump GNC who backed out of the negotiations process on Tuesday 7 July. They have since refused to return to the negotiating table due to the alleged lack of responsiveness from the UNSMIL mission with regards to their requests for amendments to the latest draft document proposed to delegates.
Nonetheless, the initialing of the deal represents a much needed and welcome step forward for Libya. In fact, despite some internal opposition from hawkish elements in Tobruk, the finalizing of the deal represented a welcome development for both the HoR and the ‘doves’ of the former ‘Libya Dawn’ camp, including boycotting HoR members as well as mayors and local notables from the cities of Misrata, Central Tripoli, Sebha, Ajdabiya, Emsalata and Zliten.
To be sure, the agreement over this initial proposed document represents nothing but an initial step required to actually kick start the more difficult talks phases where the content of the annexes accompanying the document signed on Sunday will need to be finalized. In fact, signing parties now need to flesh out the details of who will form the new government, who will join the High State Council and who will head up the county’s national institutions. Furthermore, all decisions taken by the HoR since August 2014 will need to be reviewed. Since the HoR did not shy away from taking controversial positions throughout its office, this task could prove very difficult to undertake whilst trying to adopt an all-inclusive approach. In particular, the cancelaltion of the decision taken by the HoR to appoint Khalifa Haftar as the General Commander of the LNA is seen as a pre-requisit even by the more moderate members of the now de facto dissolved ‘Libya Dawn’ block, whereas a strong current inside the HoR sees Haftar as an integral part of the future of Libya’s armed forces.
In this context of uncertainty and continuous negotiations, the GNC, or at least its more moderate members, still has a chance to re-join the negotiating platform, thus reducing risks of a protracted exclusion from Libyan politics in the months and years to come, as well as of avoiding the imposition of international sanctions for obstructing the peace process. Overal, the future does not yet look too rosy for Libya, but, if anything, the signing of the deal in Skhirat has forced the GNC onto a very hot seat that could very well lead to a further splintering of its membership, finally marginilising at the natioanl level the hawks responsible for some of the worst military escalations witnessed in the past few months.