By Ajnadin Mustafa.
Tripoli, 12 August 2016
UNSMIL chief Martin Kobler has admitted that support for Faiez Serraj’s Presidency Council is crumbling in the face of continuing power cuts and the collapsing dinar,.
Kobler told Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung that in April after the PC had arrived in Tripoli it had received overwhelming goodwill. “Now it has lost support. In April, Tripoli had electricity for 20 hours a day. Now it is 12 hours. In April, people were paying LD 3.5 for a US dollar. Today it is LD 5. This is disastrous in an import-oriented economy. The support is crumbling.”
Kobler insisted that the Libyan Political Agreement created by the Dialogue was the only option. It was still alive and had widespread support in Libya.
“The Serraj government has the backing of the UN Security Council, the Arab League, the African Union and the EU,” said Kobler, then admitting “There are also strong groups that reject the political agreement in Libya. We want to get them on to our page.”
One of the key player not on the page is Khalifa Hafter whom Kobler described as “commander of the National Army”. Since their only official meeting last December, hours before the Skirhat signing of the LPA, Hafter has rejected further talks with the UNSMIL chief.
“I have tried repeatedly to speak to Hafter,” said Kobler. “We are the United Nations. We speak to everyone, even if they don’t like the Political Agreement”. Insisting that Libya had to have a single army and that Hafter’s forces would play an important role, Kobler said he would be happy to help negotiate this. “But I need to see Hafter to know what he wants. I hope such a meeting is going to be fixed.”
Hafter and some members of the House of Representatives have rejected the Skirhat deal because it envisaged the PC deciding who was in charge of the army and other organisations.
Kobler said that one of the few crystal-clear formulations in the LPA was that the PC took on the role of commander in chief.
“Libya never had a strong army”, he said. “While Qaddafi had 120,000 soldiers, the artillery was on one side of the country and the ammo on the other. Not exactly what you would call a strong army”.
Kobler praised the success of the Bunyan Marsous operation against IS terrorists in Sirte. “The militias from Misrata fight, by the way, under the command of the Presidency Council” he said – although how true this is in reality is open to question.
But he also insisted that all militias should either disband or be integrated into the new, single Libyan army.