The U.S. State Department said it supports efforts to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue in Tunis, was this an misstatement or are is the Libyan Political Dialogue and the Presidency Council returning to Tunis? After a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Support Mission in Libya head Martin Kobler on Thursday, March 3; State Department spokesperson John Kirby said:
"We also support, as I said before, the special representative’s effort to reconvene the Libyan political dialogue in Tunis next week to move the process forward. And we note the important role of the Libyan political dialogue whose members have already done so much to make reconciliation, once so remote, a real possibility now."
The 'as I said before' prefacing Tunis, is not a reference to statements made before early February when the Presidency Council formed by the Libyan Political Dialogue, relocated from Tunis where it had been conducted negotiations from a hotel in Gammarth, Tunis to Skhirat, Morocco, after reports indicated they had been asked to leave by Tunisian authorities for security reasons. Rather it is a reference to a prepared statement spokesperson Kirby read at the beginning of the daily press briefing, which was later republished on the State Department's website (available below or at State.gov).
Skhirat was the site of the signing on December 17, 2015, of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) mediated Libyan Political Agreement, which established the Presidency Council to form a unity Government of National Accord to reconcile Libya’s two rival governments.
UNSMIL continues to maintain a temporary headquarters in Tunis due to the security situation in Libya and Tripoli.
Flight restrictions barring Libyan flights from landing in Tunis, forcing them to use the Sfax International Airport, 260 km by road or rail from Tunis.
The Tunisian Civil Aviation Authority relaxed the measure in February, allowing Libyan flights to use all civilian airports other than Tunis-Carthage International.
The move from Tunis came on the heels of the rejection of Faiez Serraj's first proposed government by the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HOR) in Tobruk. The stated reason for the rejection was that Serraj's cabinet contained too many ministers, but most observers believe that the reason was and continues to be (the second proposed government has been presented to the HOR) the choice of Defense Minister and the role of General Khalifa Haftar.
The HOR is being prevented from holding a vote on the second proposed government by a minority faction. One hundred members of the HOR, which would be enough votes to approve the government, signed a statement in approval of Serraj's second proposed government.
Tunis may have been referenced by error and Skhirat the actual location of next week's meeting, or Tunis may indeed be the location. In either scenario a fresh round of talks away from Libya and Tobruk signals that the current impasse at the internationally recognized House of Representatives in Tobruk, which has lasted over a week is not anticipated to be resolved soon and a way around formal approval in the HOR and the minority faction blocking a vote may be on the agenda.
A ministerial meeting of Libya's neighboring countries is to be held in Tunisia on March 21-22 which will be attended by Egypt, Chad, Sudan, Algeria, Tunisia and the Tobruk government (unless an approval of the Serraj government is obtained first).
The Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Khemaies Jhinaoui, while speaking at a joint press conference with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Tunis on February 17, mentioned that Tunisia would soon organize a meeting of Libya’s neighboring countries to “support for the new Libyan government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.”(Faiez Serraj)
Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Libya Martin Kobler
Office of the Spokesperson
March 3, 2016
The below is attributable to Spokesperson John Kirby:
Secretary Kerry met today with Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Libya Martin Kobler to discuss ongoing efforts to support a unified Government of National Accord in Libya.
Secretary Kerry made clear that the United States will continue to support Prime Minister al-Sarraj and the Government of National Accord as they take their rightful place in Tripoli and that we look forward to seeing Libyan Political Dialogue members reconvene in Tunis next week to advance the process. He expressed his concern that, despite the efforts of a majority of Libyan leaders to seat this government, a small group of spoilers prevented a formal vote that would have endorsed the Cabinet.
Finally, the Secretary reiterated that the United States remains committed to providing the Government of National Accord full political backing and technical, economic, humanitarian, security and counter-terrorism assistance.