Leon: Final Text of Libyan Political Agreement Ready; Candidates for Government After Eid
Excerpts from SRSG for Libya Bernardino Leon’s press conference late night Monday 21 September 2015 in Skhirat, Morocco:
You know that in every process in every negotiations there is a moment in which we have to declare that the job is done. And what I am coming to say tonight is that we finished our work. We have now a text that is the final text. So, our part of the process is now finished. Now it is up to the parties, up to the participants in the dialogue to react to this text, but not in terms of adding more comments or getting back with something to negotiate. It is the moment for them and for the Libyans after a process that has been longer, really much longer than we all expected and all thought that could be possible for a country that is facing o many challenges so for them to say yes we want to work together we want to overcome together these challenges or not.
This in case of the institutions, of course, it would be possible. They can refuse, they can reject this proposal. But in this case they will also be choosing the uncertainty, the difficulties to work with the international community, to work with other Libyans and, of course, putting this country in a very difficult position.
So on behalf of the United Nations, my second message tonight is for the parties, for all the Libyans to understand that this seems to be the only option. We know very well that as in all similar negotiations and agreements this is not perfect for most of the Libyans. Every Libyan, every institution, every party, every organization will see elements in the agreement that they don’t like, but hopefully they will also see more elements that they like and they will all understand in this situation in Libya, such confrontation, killings, humanitarian crisis and so many problems, they must expect that if there is a solution, that this proposal is a solution, it will be a text like this final text like we have proposed today.
We have had during a year-long negotiations, discussions, exchanges, debates, with the different actors and at this stage we believe that the United Nations is well placed to assess when the final moment has arrived and to understand what the parties can accept and what they cannot accept. This is what our responsibility as mediators is to assess that this moment has arrived and this is with our full sense of responsibility and with our understanding that the role of the United Nations is in the world and Libya today to tell the Libyans, tell the institutions that are involved that they have to be flexible, generous and they have to put the interest of their country above any other consideration. They have to be positive. They have to see what this process is going to bring to the country, and not to be concerned of what they would have liked to see in the text or to see as outcome of this process and will not be there. This is not the question today, the question today is to get Libya back to track to build, peace development, prosperity in the country.
And the most important element that many Libyans are asking today and especially in the last hours and today many Libyans in the east, many Libyans in Benghazi, is security. I’m here representing the United Nations but we are accompanied by many ambassadors of many countries in the international community we have all expressed on many occasions our solidarity with those who are suffering in Libya, displaced people, mothers, children, people who cannot go to school, who cannot find food medicines and this is especially tough in Benghazi. It is a city that is facing a very, an extremely difficult situation and it’s a city that is suffering is terms of solidarity. Our solidarity also with the city, with the people that are suffering attacks from groups, terrorist groups that are on the list of international organizations that are considered terrorist by United Nations Security Council resolutions, and obviously this solidarity today is translated in our fill support to the only weapon that will allow the Libyans to prevail in this battle, which is unity. Without unity, without an agreement that will allow the Libyans to work together to achieve security there will not be a possibility to prevail and defeat terrorism.
You heard recently that I made strong statements about what has been going on in Benghazi in the last days. We believe and we still call for all the Libyans to understand that this process has reached the most delicate moment, the moment in which it will be possible to take the way of political unity or the way of uncertainty and chaos, further chaos, because we have a lot of chaos in Libya. Enough, I think. We call on all the Libyans to be responsible and to refrain from any action that could hinder and complicate even more the possibilities of success in this process.
We very much hope that in the coming days that the parties will be back, and ready to discuss names. It has now been confirmed by all the parties in this process, without exception, all of them are ready to discuss the names of the unity government, immediately after Eid. And we all hope that this process will be expedited, that it will be possible to finish in two or three days to vote the text and to attend a final session, a closing session of this dialogue in New York during the week of the UN General Assembly.
If it is possible, if the parties vote and endorse the agreement, then in the following days after New York it could be possible to initial the text and we will discuss with the participants, with the Libyans in general how they envisage this ceremony, but we all know very well that this city which is hosting is a candidate, a natural candidate but, of course, this is a decision the Libyans have to take. And afterwards, of course, the wish has been expressed by all the participants unanimously is that the signing should take place in Libya. This is something that also for the international community, for the United Nations, is the ideal final stage of our work and we very much hope and look forward to this signing in Libya in the coming weeks.
All this will hopefully happen with a deadline we have, which is the 20th of October. Nobody would like to see any political vacuum in Libya. We want to see a political and legal clear framework. The country needs it. The international community needs it to operate in Libya, to have partners with a very clear legal status. It has been extremely difficult for the international community to deal with Libya in the last year, and actually (it is) really a miracle that some operations are still taking place given the legal and political chaos.
But the good news for the country and the good news for the international community is that today there is a clear possibility for the chaos to finish, with a clear definition of who is the government, to overcome this division, in regions, institutions, parliaments, governments, with the unity that will allow them to return to what Libya always was, a rich country a healthy country, a country that can be - and you know that I like always to insist on this idea that can be a very good example, a very good reference for those countries that are suffering in the regions, countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen that are also very hopeful that the Libyans will become their good example, a political solution through dialogue and not through violence and war.
Question: Is this the final (inaudible), is the government annex included, includes names?
Leon: The content of the political agreement is final. We will not have any further negotiations, the parties are now expected to approve it or not to approve i. Of course, this is their decision, and not come back with more remarks or more elements to be negotiated. But Annex No. 1 of this text is the five names of the Presidential Council of the government and this still has to be decided when the parties will be back immediately after Eid, so this annex No. 1 still has to be completed and this is the moment in which there will be a comprehensive package.
This is not an element of discussing formulas or articles or legal elements in the agreement. It is just a matter of agreeing on list of five names and adding it as Annex No. 1 to the final package in terms of endorsement because the endorsement will only come when all these elements will be completed.
Question: We understand now it is a take it or leave offer, can we say it is sending a warning to both sides in Libya?
Leon: It is not a warning. We have to put it in a positive way. The Libyans have been the ones who have created this opportunity and it is an opportunity for the country. The question, the warning has to come from those who oppose this possibility solution that we have elaborated all together because they are the ones who have to say what is the alternative. I don’t see many alternative in Libya, frankly. I have heard a lot of critics about this work and about this agreement and we know very well that there are many people who do not like what we are doing and who find here and there elements that they would prefer to be different. But what is the alternative? And this is the real warning. This is what all Libyans should now discuss, and we hope that there will be a wide debate. We hope that there will be a serious and mature debate on what are the alternatives.
We cannot continue to negotiate forever, as we know after the 20th of October the little elements we have, certain legitimacy, legality, and based on the institutions, and here I want to talk about institutions in a wide sense. In this process we have had different institutions, considering different sources of the legitimacy to be here negotiating they have accepted each other and decided to work together to reach this conclusion. I don’t see any alternatives. When people talk about some ideas as solutions in Libya, and we have heard in recent weeks some of them, I am very worried because these ideas will not get any recognition, will not get any support from the international community, will just multiply the chaos that Libya is facing. So in my opinion, I am not saying this because the United Nations has been facilitating these Libyan negotiations; I am saying this because, frankly, after one year following Libya very closely I cannot see any alternative.
Question: Why didn’t you send the last document to the parties (inaudible)
Leon: As you know, in recent days, a week ago we reached what was practically I defined it as a point of consensus. There was a general consensus among the parties but still there were some final details to be fined tuned. Here we say in negotiations that the devil is in the details, there are many details, and we have spent almost as much energy and efforts in dealing with these final details in the last few days as we have spent in month of negotiations on some big elements and ideas. So the devil, indeed, was in the details. We have to clarify to work on these details, and I believe that what we have now, it is our understanding as United Nations, this is something that should be acceptable, that respects the red lines that all the parties set at the beginning of these talks. I think the second point you made is very important. I am convinced that names will help, will ease very much the approval of the parties because, obviously, there is a concern is this agreement going to bring a government that would be acceptable for all the Libyans? This is, of course, a normal question to make, and I think that they are ready to do that. They understand that this is the only possibility. If the government is not a good government or it is not going to be perceived by all the Libyans as fair government it is not going to work, so I really hope that they will come here after Eid, that they will have a good government, a good list of names, and I am sure that it will definitely facilitate the approval of the final agreement.
Question: What is the difference between the last version and this one, and what made you more hopeful that the parties will accept it?
The difference as I said is a number of details that requires further clarification. Some guarantees that had to be enforced, some definitions that the text requires. So, we have been working in the last days on these ones. I don’t think these details are altering the essence of the text. The final editing will be done in the coming days by the team in English and Arabic versions, and we will share with the parties but I am sure the parties will see. We know very well what are the red lines, what are their views about the different institutional issues and political issues and we firmly believe that this has been respected and reflected in this text.
Question: What about the deadline for the vote?
Leon: We are always with deadlines debating in this process. The only real deadline we have is the 20th of October. This is, all the participants, all of them, from all the parties, have a very strong determination that we should not go beyond the 20th of October, that the chaos we have today, will just become further chaos and the vacuum might create a situation in which the people who cannot solve this crisis will try to do something which will make the crisis even worse. So, we need a political agreement where all Libyans can meet and all Libyans can support before the 20th of October, actually to start to enter into force on the 20 of October.
Now before that we wanted to finish our work today, because this is 30 days before this 20 October deadline. But of course the parties have certain flexibility because they can reduce the timing of the different elements they have to do before the entering into force of the agreement, so we can be flexible on this. Now, as I said before we would like to use the United Nations General Assembly week to have the opportunity to express a strong support from the international community. This is not a strong deadline. It is something that will provide the Libyans, provide this agreement with a huge support from the international community. It is an excellent opportunity for the Libyans and for the international community. So it could be really a pity that the Libyans don’t use this. It is not a deadline related to the agreement, but it is a deadline related to the international agenda, and it is extremely important. So, also a very strong call from the United Nations to the Libyan parties to endorse the text before the first of October so that they can be in New York expressing their support and their agreement. Obviously, if on the first of October we have this last session of this dialogue the initialing could be anytime between the 1st of October and the 20th of October.