Libyan Political Dialogue Round Commences in Geneva - 11 August 2015
Transcript of press conference by Bernardino Leon, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on the opening day of a new round of Libyan Political Dialogue. Geneva, 11 August 2015:
(Near verbatim transcript)
SRSG: Thank you very much. Good afternoon to all of you. It’s a pleasure to see you again after a few months of this nomadic process. As you know we have been travelling to different places with different tracks, and it’s really a pleasure to be back to Geneva.
As you know, the process has been divided into different tracks. We had what we called the Skhirat group with MPs, with representatives from the civil society. We had meetings in Algeria where political parties and political leaders gathered. We have other groups, including women’s groups, and we have the security track, with the militia. We are working on the tribal track. So, different groups of people, but these tracks were always intended to converge, and this is what we are doing today.
On the one hand, we are starting a new round of talks with a very clear agenda. This will be on the one hand the “annexes” and on the other hand the unity government. We are also starting the convergence of tracks by bringing the political parties and, in the coming days, we intend to do the same with the other tracks. There has to be more convergence and we hope that in the coming two or three weeks it will be possible to have a complete interaction of all the tracks. Let me insist once again, as I have always done, that the security track – the participation and the input from the militias, from those who are on the ground, – has been important to reach the point where we are now, to stabilize the situation in the west.
And, of course, we are looking forward to have more interaction with the army and the different actors in the eastern part of the country. In the last weeks, there have been problems, important problems in the south. UNSMIL has issued a statement. It is very important also that the situation in the south stabilizes, this process is about the whole of Libya. As east, west and south, they should be part of this stability, of this security that this agreement is trying to bring. We will work in the coming days on the basis of a timetable, which must necessarily be short. Libya is facing huge challenges. We have discussed these already in the past; you don’t need more details on how difficult the situation is in the country. We are proposing that the parties work in the coming three weeks and try to have agreement on these important two points regarding the annexes and the unity government by the end of August. If this were possible - and this will very much depend on the political will and on the creativity, on the wisdom of the parties to bring good names and good proposals to the table - then the endorsement, final voting and signing of the agreement could happen in the first weeks of September so that the final conclusion of this process can be achieved before we have the UN General Assembly.
This could be ideal, but of course we know that we are in a very complex process, with lots of actors and lots of challenging issues. At this stage, let me leave it as an ideal timetable, but we will see in the coming two or three weeks whether this is a possible timetable or not. Let me also say that we are glad to see that all actors are around the table and although we delayed – we had to delay – a little bit resuming the talks, I think it was worth working on trying to bring everybody on board.
Whether they will stay or not, whether it will be possible to go to this stage of the discussions on annexes and governments will very much depend on the parties. But UNSMIL and the international community – I would say even all the Libyans involved in the process – have done everything possible to have everybody around the table. This is the inclusion principle that is so important for this process. Together with consensus, together with balance. Once again we are very satisfied that all actors will be here, tonight and tomorrow, and that there will be a new chance to provide the drive for the process on this perspective. I think that listening to everybody and addressing the concerns of all the parties has been the reason for the limited success we have had so far, with an agreement where most parties are converging. We will continue to listen to everybody, and this process will only be successful if we can reassure everyone and it is possible to reassure everyone. We are convinced that all the Libyan political parties, all the Libyans stakeholders can see their concerns, their main issues, their main expectations addressed in this process. We will continue to listen and work with all of them, and we hope that they will give the process the benefit of the doubt and that it will be possible to continue to work and see what is the final picture at the end of the day. If the final picture comes with detailed annexes and a unity government where all Libyans feel represented, then I am sure they will see a full picture they cannot see today. That will be reassuring. This is what we will try to do in the coming days.
Sorry for this long introduction. Now I will be glad to answer your questions. Let me insist on how comfortable and happy we feel to be back in Geneva and let me thank the Swiss government for their great contribution, which is not only a contribution when we are here in Switzerland. It has been a very strong support for the process throughout all the meetings we have had since we started this process.
Q: Saleh Mahzoum from the GNC said yesterday to the … agency that Mr Léon promised them they can amend the political agreement in any way they wish. Can you please elaborate a little bit on that? And also, the scenario the United Nations is putting for Libya. What if you could not reach an agreement by 20 October? Libya is going to be in a huge political vacuum. Do you have a scenario for that? Thank you.
SRSG: On the first question, as I said, what we are intending to do in the coming three weeks is to discuss the annexes and to discuss the unity government. On the one hand we are convinced to address all concerns in the annexes, especially the annexes that will detail the different articles of this Skhirat agreement. But also to have a full picture of the process and the government. I used the expression before, we would like the GNC and all Libyans participating in the process to give the benefit of the doubt to the process. There are two possible extreme positions. One is to have the text initialled by all participants and the other is to let us reopen that text and introduce changes. I think we have to be pragmatic and we can be pragmatic. We are trying to overcome these two positions and to go into the work on the annexes and on the government. This should be the pragmatic way for all the actors. This does not mean we are not ready to address all their concerns. The first thing we will do is meet and listen to them and make proposals on addressing these concerns in the annexes. If at the end of the process it is not possible to address these concerns in the declarations we will add to the political agreement then they will have to decide to support or not to support the agreement. I insist: let us put the accent on their concerns and reassuring them and the rest of the participants, and let’s see how things evolve at the end of the process.
On the second question, I prefer to think that we will be there. What Libya is facing now is deeper chaos and division of the country. So I hope all the Libyan actors will be wise to avoid this scenario, to expedite the talks and to reach an agreement very soon.
I think it is extremely risky to reach October without an agreement, because we will be in a more chaotic situation. This is why it’s important to have this timeline and to finalize these discussions in the coming three weeks and then to expedite also the endorsement and voting of the agreement.
Q: Who are exactly the persons that are around the table? And you mentioned that some will be around the table tonight and others tomorrow. Could you be more precise?
SRSG: All the participants in the political dialogue, in what has been called the Skhirat track, will be here today. They are, all of them here, and I have met most of them, We stopped for a while to have this meeting, but I will continue immediately [after] with the meetings. All of them are here, without any exception. On the other hand, the political parties, which are part of what we call the Algiers track, which are political parties and political leaders -- the political parties are here today – they want to have their input in the process and, as I said, the convergence of tracks has been a key principle since we started and we need to expedite this convergence of tracks. I’m meeting all of them today and I will continue to meet all of them tomorrow and after tomorrow, if necessary.
Q : Est-ce-que vous allez discuter avec les délégations libyennes, durant ces deux jours, comment mettre en œuvre le texte qui a été élaboré à Skhirat au Maroc en juillet passé, ou allez-vous discuter du contenu? C'est-à-dire est-ce que les conditions du Congrès national libyen vont être prises en considération, ou allez-vous vous baser seulement sur ce texte et discuter comment le mettre en œuvre?
SRSG : Ce dont nous allons discuter pendant ces jours et pendant les trois prochaines semaines, ce sont les annexes du texte: la première est sur le gouvernement d'unité nationale; la deuxième ce sont les priorités du nouveau gouvernement; la troisième, également très importante, c'est la composition, le fonctionnement, le budget et tous les détails concernant le Conseil d'État qui est une institution, vous le savez, qui existe déjà dans l'accord. Donc, il s'agit de discuter des annexes qui vont amener des détails sur les différents éléments de l'accord. Il y a la question très importante, je l'ai souligné avant, des arrangements de sécurité et le groupe de travail sur la sécurité. On va essayer de faire de notre mieux pour continuer de travailler avec ces acteurs et que leurs conclusions soient aussi annexées à l'accord. Et également il y aura une annexe sur les priorités pour les institutions indépendantes économiques qui doivent converger pour une récupération économique de la Libye. Donc, ça, c'est les annexes. La première annexe, qui est peut-être la question la plus importante aujourd'hui en Libye, c'est le gouvernement d'unité nationale. Donc, il y aura un dialogue spécifique sur cette question et nous espérons que tous les acteurs, y compris le Congrès de Tripoli, seront prêts à discuter ces deux questions parce qu'il y a un accord général pas seulement parmi tous les participants au dialogue mais tous les Libyens sont d'accord qu'il faut aller le plus vite possible.
Q: As I understand that you are working on the security element at the same time working on the political issue. My question is are we going to see at the end of the process, another agreement related to the security, I mean between the armed groups on the ground in Libya or how will be the mechanism to have a guarantee that any political agreement you will achieve will be implemented on the ground?
SRSG: Our intention is to have all these military actors, the army, militias, etc., around the table and providing their support, political support, to the agreement and a detailed programme on how to implement the security arrangements. As you know, the political agreement has an important chapter on security arrangements and these are general principles that have to be detailed in these security arrangements. We want this input to be part of the final agreement. The problem is that these military actors on the ground whose input is so important are not advancing or making progress at the same pace we are doing with the political actors, so we will try to catch up in the coming days. It is one of the priorities we have, together with the discussion on the annexes and the government and we will try to have their input before the final agreement is completed and ready to be endorsed and voted.
Q: My understanding is that the GNC wouldn’t even engage with discussions on the annex or unity government until there was an assurance that General Haftar had no role in a future Libyan army. It’s a complicated proposition because some people consider him the Chief of the Libyan Army. He has been meeting with regional leaders including the King of Jordan on security matters. Has there been an insurance that he won’t play a role in a national unity army? And if not, how can you move forward without such an assurance?
SRSG: We have discussed, in the political dialogue so far, the institutions. So there is nothing in this agreement related to a specific personalities. Now, we will start the discussion on the annexes, as I said, and the unity government. After this is done it will be possible to include discussions on other elements of the process at the right time. This is not yet the moment. We hope that parties will not try to impose their own agenda. We respect everybody’s views and everybody’s positions and it is important that everybody feels reassured in the process, but we have agreed with the majority of the members this agenda and we have to work on the basis of an agenda. So addressing concerns it is very important but at the right moment and following this agenda.
Q: Mr Leon, two questions: number one, we have seen in recent weeks attempts by the Thini Government to bolster the parallel institutions that they have set up in Eastern Libya; we have seen a change and an apparent change in the Head of Eastern NOC. We have seen the IMF publicly acknowledge Mr. El Hibry as the Head of the Central Bank in Libya. Such moves would appear to be against the spirit of moves towards dialogue ending in a unity government.
I would like you to comment on that. And also I would like you to comment on the belligerent rhetoric we are hearing from Prime Minister Thini in recent days; he gave an interview to an Italian media outlet where he threatened to attack Tripoli if the dialogue fails.
SRSG: I agree with you. I think such unilateral moves are against the spirit of the agreement so it would be important that, if the parties have been patient enough to wait until now, now that we can see some light at the end of the tunnel, that we might see if everything goes well – a unity government in Libya - that the parties give this unity government the opportunity to address these sovereign positions, these high officials in the government and economic institutions.
At the same time I prefer not to comment on any specific remarks, but let me insist, once again, how important it is that all Libyan actors send constructive messages. We have not finished this process. We have a lot of people already, talking “What if there is a failure?”, “What if this or that doesn’t work?” Well, let us give it time and let us try to find constructive ways to finalize this and let us not work on scenarios of what will happen if all this does not work because how are the Libyans going to believe that this can work if the messages they are hearing from different people in both camps are negative messages. I would like to see Libyan politicians saying “this can work”, “Libyans can make a political agreement”, “Libyans can solve their differences peacefully, and we are going to make it”: this is the message that I would like to see Libyan politicians sending to their people.
Q: Now you are meeting with the different parties separately? Do you think tomorrow you will be able to meet all the parties together, and for tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, are you planning to see the press again to communicate the achievement of this round?
SRSG: On the first question I think it would be very important that they all get together. This has been a wish and a goal for UNSMIL since we started to work. It was possible in the very last round of talks to have them together, so we hope again that this will be the case in this round of talks. I am not sure whether it will happen today or tomorrow but I really would like to see them getting together in the coming days so we will work very hard to create the conditions for this gathering to take place and this interaction between all the actors. On the second question of course, I am always glad to see you and meet you and either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow we will continue to meet and brief you on how things are going.
Q: If you can just give us an idea about the role of the neighbouring countries to Libya – Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and other countries in Europe – as this is a critical stage of the process. What is the role of neighbouring and other countries in Europe and the Security Council?
SRSG: It is a good point because it gives me the opportunity to acknowledge how positive the support of neighbouring countries has been, of regional actors and the international community in broad terms - the European Union, the United States. It couldn’t have been possible to reach this point without their support. So I think we are honoured and we are lucky that this support from the international community has been very strong, very clear. Many ambassadors or many envoys following the Libyan issue are once again here today and I very much hope that this support will continue in the coming days. The final miles in such complicated process are always the most difficult ones, so we will need this strong encouragement and this fantastic support from the international community, from the neighbouring countries, and the regional actors in the coming days.