Salame frustrated over independent international Libya initiatives
The new UN envoy Ghassan Salame is said to be frustrated by independent bilateral attempts to broker power in Libya as he prepares to unveil a new Libya roadmap for concrete amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, which begins today. It is also reported that It is reported that Salamé will speak at a conference in London on 14 September convened by UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and attended by the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to discuss his plans to restart political talks in Libya. On 7 September, Salamé told Italian media that, “There are six or seven different operations in front of Libyans’ eyes. Too many cooks spoil the broth.” It isn’t difficult to see what he means.
On 5 September, Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minitti visited Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi. This was Minitti’s first meeting with Haftar and he is the most senior Italian official to meet with him to date. No details were released about what was discussed during this meeting. Italy has not previously had a strong relationship with Haftar, allying more closely with the Government of National Accord (GNA) and its allies in Tripoli and Misrata.
Minitti’s visit came a day after the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian completed a whistle-stop tour of Libya on 4 September. Le Drian, accompanied by French ambassador to Libya Brigitte Curmi met with GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj and High Council of State (HCS) head Abdurrahman al-Swehli in Tripoli. In Misrata, they met with the city’s mayor, Mohamed Eshtewi, as well as House of Representatives (HoR) members and al-Bunyan al-Marsus commanders, though little is known about the content of these meetings. Le Drian then met with Haftar in Benghazi before finishing his tour in Tobruk where he met with HoR president Ageelah Saleh. It appears that the main aim of Le Drian’s visit was to shore up support among key Libyan players for the Serraj-Haftar deal facilitate by French President Emmanuel Macron on 25 July in Paris. Le Drian’s British counterpart Boris Johnson did a similar tour of Libya only the week before.
The UN and other members of the international community have created a quandary by supporting the LPA with one hand, while simultaneously undermining it with the other by supporting preferred factions on the ground. This approach has essentially left the UN toothless and rudderless, managing political ‘optics’ rather than an implementable political agreement. Without concrete change in this dynamic, Salame’s roadmap is likely to remain entrapped in the same limbo state of his predecessors, ultimately meaning that no concrete agreement or amendments to the LPA can be expected any time soon.