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UN deadlock on Ukraine peacekeepers

Ukraine rejects Putin proposal for UN peacekeepers to protect OSCE observers on conflict contact line

Alexander Mercouris

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This article was first published by RussiaFeed

On 5th September 2017, during his press conference at the latest BRICS summit in China, President Putin of Russia unexpectedly announced a proposal for the UN Security Council to organise a lightly armed force of peacekeepers to provide protection to observers from the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) who are patrolling the contact line between the militia in the Donbass and the Ukrainian army.

Putin’s words at the press conference were as follow

Vladimir Putin: This is impossible to do via the General Assembly, because UN peacekeepers cannot function other than pursuant to Security Council resolutions. But that is not the point.

You are saying that someone wants to push something through. In fact, I do not see anything wrong with that. I have already said many times that I support the idea of arming the OSCE mission, but the OSCE itself refuses to arm its field personnel, since it has neither the relevant people nor the experience of such work.

In this context, I believe that the presence of UN peacekeepers, not even peacekeepers, but those who provide security for the OSCE mission, is quite appropriate and I do not see anything wrong with that; on the contrary, I believe that this would help resolve the situation in southeastern Ukraine. Of course, we can talk only about ensuring the security of the OSCE staff. This is my first point.

The second point is that, in this regard, these forces should be located on the demarcation line only and on no other territories.

Thirdly, this issue should be resolved only after disengaging the parties and removing the heavy equipment. This cannot be resolved without direct contact with representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic.

I believe that if all this is done, it would definitely benefit resolving the situation in southeastern Ukraine. We will consider this as instructions to the Foreign Ministry to submit a relevant resolution to the Security Council.

This proposal has not been fully analysed, but what Putin proposed here was not a truly a “peacekeeping force” but rather a small lightly armed contingent whose task would have been to carry out bodyguard protection duties for the unarmed OSCE observers in the conflict zone.

Here it is worth pointing out that the presence of the OSCE observers in the Donbass conflict zone goes back to the spring of 2014, when it was actually proposed by Putin.  Putin’s latest proposal therefore represented an attempt by the Russians to strengthen an OSCE mission which is present in the Donbass conflict zone at their original instigation.

Behind Putin’s proposal is Russian frustration that the OSCE mission has proved ineffective in ramping down the conflict, with many though by no means all its field reports more favourable to the Ukrainian side in a way that the Russians undoubtedly feel is biased.  Introducing a small number of lightly armed UN peacekeepers drawn from a variety of countries – including non-Western countries – to the conflict zone might not merely make the OSCE mission more effective but might also correct this imbalance.

Putin’s proposal has received strong support from elements within the German government, who are becoming increasingly concerned that as a result of the indefinite perpetuation of EU sanctions EU-Russian relations – and therefore German-Russian relations – are becoming deadlocked.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, currently the most popular politician in Germany and a former leader of the SPD, has spoken of Putin’s proposal in enthusiastic terms

What we need to do now is to carry out negotiations aimed at the implementation of such a ceasefire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry. Thanks to the Russian proposal we are able to do this now……

I advise all participants not to say that we won’t do this because not all of our demands are met, but to openly discuss with the Russian Federation the conditions of a UN mission,” Gabriel said.

The deployment, if successful in bringing about a lasting ceasefire, would pave the way for political settlement, Gabriel said, adding that “then, we will be able to begin lifting sanctions imposed on Russia.”

German Chancellor Merkel has been much more cautious.  However she has also signalled that Putin’s proposal has her backing, subject to Putin’s agreement – which she secured in a telephone conversation with Putin on 11th September 2017 – that the proposed UN peacekeepers should be able to go anywhere within the conflict zone that the OSCE observers go, and not just the contact line.  Here is how the Kremlin’s website describes this part of the conversation

Vladimir Putin spoke in detail on the Russian initiative to establish a UN mission to aid the protection of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM). Taking into account the views communicated by Angela Merkel, the Russian leader expressed readiness to add to the functions of the above-mentioned UN mission proposed in the Russian draft resolution of the Security Council.

The protection of OSCE observers by the UN is envisioned not only on the contact line after the disengagement of the forces and equipment of both sides, but also in other places where the OSCE SMM conducts its inspection visits in accordance with the Minsk Package of Measures.

However for the same reasons that Putin made the proposal Ukraine opposes it.  Just as the Russians want to secure a ceasefire in the Donbass, so Ukraine adamantly opposes a ceasefire since that might increase pressure on Ukraine to fulfil the political provisions of the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, which are totally unacceptable to Ukraine.

Beyond this there are two points about Putin’s proposal which the Ukrainians must find especially infuriating.

The first is the demand in Putin’s proposal that the remit of the UN peacekeepers be agreed through direct negotiations between the Ukrainian government and the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

Direct talks between the Ukrainian government and the authorities of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics were in fact envisaged by the February 2015 Minsk Agreement, which Ukraine has signed.  Such direct talks have however never happened.  The Ukrainian government adamantly opposes them since it correctly sees such talks as conferring legal recognition on the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as parties to the conflict, thereby admitting that it is an internal Ukrainian conflict (as the Russians say) and not a case of aggression against Ukraine by Russia (as the Ukrainians say).

The Ukrainian stance has been well explained by Oleg Nemenensky, a senior researcher at Russia’s Institute of Strategic Studies.  In an interview with the Russian newspaper Izvestia partly republished by TASS he explained the reasons for Ukraine’s negative reaction to Putin’s proposal in this way

This means that the conflict in Ukraine is recognized as internal, which is inadmissible for the Kiev authorities, since it destroys the whole ideological of its policy. In addition, to introduce peacekeepers to the line of demarcation, it is necessary to recognize the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic as parties to the conflict. That contradicts the entire propaganda system built on the fact that the war is being waged with Russia,

The second reason for Ukrainian anger is that Putin’s proposal, by referring to “UN peacekeepers”, sought to preempt Western opposition to the proposal by using language previously proposed by Ukraine.

The Ukrainian government has been lobbying for years for a “UN peacekeeping force” to be deployed along the border between Russia and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.  Russia has consistently rejected this proposal, pointing out correctly that it is the contrary to the provisions of the 2015 Minsk Agreement.

Behind Russian opposition to this Ukrainian proposal is the belief in Moscow – which is almost certainly correct – that its purpose is to ‘seal’ the border between Russia and the two People’s Republics, cutting off the militia’s supply lines to Russia so as to enable the Ukrainian army to carry out an operation similar to Operation Storm: the military offensive in 1995 by the Croatian army, which led to the destruction of the Serb republic of Krajina.

Recently the Ukrainians have been re floating their longstanding proposal, leading possibly to calculations in Moscow that if some of the language of the Ukrainian proposal were used it would defuse Western opposition to Putin’s proposal, which is in reality a completely different one.

With the Germans this appears to have worked up to a point.  However, perhaps contrary to Russian hopes, the Trump administration – or perhaps more accurately the hardliners currently in the ascendant within it – has sided with Ukraine.

The result is that the negotiations in the UN Security Council on Putin’s proposal appear to be deadlocked, with the Ukrainians making a counter-proposal that refers to Russia as the “aggressor”.  As Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesman, has pointed out, such language cannot be accepted by Russia, and is clearly intended to wreck the proposal

While commenting on the wording suggested by Kiev, he said it was unacceptable. “If they take such a position and claim that Russia is an aggressor, then it leaves little room to manoeuvre,” Peskov said. According to him, such position “disregards the actual situation” as Russia is not a party to the conflict but one of the guarantors of the Minsk Agreements, “which are the basis of the settlement process.”

The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that “Russia and President Putin have more than once expressed readiness to do everything possible to achieve a compromise, but any compromise has its degree of reasonableness and acceptability.” When asked if the Kremlin had studied the Kiev-drafted resolution, Peskov said that diplomats were working on that.

Given the stance Ukraine is taking, Putin’s proposal is now all but dead.  Its only prospect for implementation is if the two other states involved in the Minsk Agreement – Germany and France – put pressure on Ukraine to accept it.  As to that, though the Germans and the French have frequently expressed exasperation at Ukraine’s intransigence – especially in private – they have in practice always drawn back from putting on Ukraine the sort of pressure that might force it to compromise.  Unfortunately that looks unlikely to change.

If deadlock was always the likeliest outcome to the Russian proposal, why did Putin make it?

The Russians have been receiving conflicting signals from the Trump administration about the Ukrainian conflict, and it may be that the proposal was in part floated in order to flush the Trump administration out: to see whether or not it is genuinely interested in a negotiated settlement of the Ukrainian conflict.  If so then the Russians have their answer: for the moment the hardliners within the Trump administration are in the ascendant, with US support for Ukraine’s Maidan government as strong as ever.

However the likeliest reason is that the Russians made their proposal with an eye to the German elections, which are due on Sunday.

The Russians have undoubtedly noticed the growing weariness in Germany with Merkel even if she is still likely to win the election on Sunday, and they have undoubtedly noticed the anger in Germany over the latest sanction law passed by the US Congress.

Putin’s proposal seems to have been pitched to underline the point – widely known in Germany, though publicly resisted by Merkel – that it is Ukraine’s intransigence not Russia’s ‘aggression’ which is prolonging the conflict.  With AfD, FDP and SDP politicians in the run up to the elections all making publicly known their deep skepticism about Merkel’s policy, and with doubts about the policy known to exist deep within Merkel’s CDU and – rather more openly – in the CDU’s Bavarian sister party the CSU, the Russians presumably felt that there was no harm in floating a proposal which would again show where the real obstacle to peace in Ukraine lies.

In other words the Russians are now starting to look beyond Merkel, assessing – almost certainly correctly – that even if she wins the election on Sunday as everyone expects, her time as Germany’s Chancellor is ending.

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K Pomeroy
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K Pomeroy

This article is wrong in many details. I believe Putin was not the first to suggest an OSCE mission in Ukraine. That suggestion came from the OSCE itself, when it composed the original Minsk agreements. Also, the OSCE do not need to be armed. Only one OSCE observer has ever died on the job: George Bishop, an American who was killed when his vehicle hit a landmine on the LPR side of the contact line in April 2017. There is much evidence that landmine was planted by Ukrainian saboteurs. Arming the OSCE, or “protecting” them with “lightly armed” UN “peacekeepsers”,… Read more »

Terry Ross
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Terry Ross

The OSCE did NOT compose the Minsk agreements. This was a hard fought negotiation over several days involving Ukraine and DPR/LPR, Russia and OSCE. As Forbes (from a US perspective) put it: The text of the agreement raises as many questions as it answers and sidesteps the thorniest issues. First, it calls for the “pullout of all foreign armed formations, military equipment, and also mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine under OSCE supervision (and) the disarmament of all illegal groups.” Sounds good, but all other provisions are subject to strict timelines. This one is not. No deadline is given—I doubt… Read more »

GeorgeG
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GeorgeG

Both of the suggesed motivations — flush out the Trump Admin and a nod (shhh!, not “interference in the German election campaign!), are viable, and together. First, Putin made a move. The entire German “establishment” welcomed the move behind the scenes. They all want to get off the American coat-tails. Merkel even made her own move: she would be willing to mediate in the Korean crisis, and Putin welcomed that move. The Germans don’t like Trump’s bluster on Korea, and they don’t want US “lethal weapon aid” to Kiev. It is German-all-too-German, and therefore rather illusory, but the German view… Read more »

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Major Syrian Army Assault On Southeast Idlib As Sochi Deal Unravels

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months. 

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Via Zerohedge


The Syrian Army unleashed a major assault across the southeastern part of Idlib province on Saturday, a military source told Middle East news site Al-Masdar in a breaking report. According to the source, government forces pounded jihadist defenses across the southeast Idlib axis with a plethora of artillery shells and surface-to-surface missiles.

This latest exchange between the Syrian military and jihadist rebels comes as the Sochi Agreement falls apart in northwestern Syria, and in response to a Friday attack by jihadists which killed 22 Syrian soldiers near a planned buffer zone around the country’s last major anti-Assad and al-Qaeda held region. The jihadist strikes resulted in the highest number of casualties for the army since the Sochi Agreement was established on September 17th.

Though the Syrian war has grown cold in terms of international spotlight and media interest since September, it is likely again going to ramp up dramatically over the next few months.

The Al-Masdar source said the primary targets for the Syrian Army were the trenches and military posts for Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham in the towns of Al-Taman’ah, Khuwayn, Babulin, Haish, Jarjanaz, Um Jalal, and Mashirfah Shmaliyah. In retaliation for the Syrian Army assault, the jihadist rebels began shelling the government towns of Ma’an, Um Hariteen, and ‘Atshan.

Damascus has been critical of the Sochi deal from the start as it’s criticized Turkey’s role in the Russian-brokered ceasefire plan, especially as a proposed ‘de-militarized’ zone has failed due to jihadist insurgents still holding around 70% of the planned buffer area which they were supposed to withdraw from by mid-October. Sporadic clashes have rocked the “buffer zone” since.

Russia itself recently acknowledged the on the ground failure of the Sochi agreement even as parties officially cling to it. During a Thursday press briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova admitted the following:

We have to state that the real disengagement in Idlib has not been achieved despite Turkey’s continuing efforts to live up to its commitments under the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of September 17.

This followed Russia also recently condemning  “sporadic clashes” and “provocations” by the jihadist group HTS (the main al-Qaeda presence) in Idlib.

Likely due to Moscow seeing the writing on the wall that all-out fighting and a full assault by government forces on Idlib will soon resume, Russian naval forces continued a show of force in the Mediterranean this week.

Russian military and naval officials announced Friday that its warships held extensive anti-submarine warfare drills in the Mediterranean. Specifically the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s frigates Admiral Makarov and Admiral Essen conducted the exercise in tandem with deck-based helicopters near Syrian coastal waters.

Notably, according to TASS, the warships central to the drill are “armed with eight launchers of Kalibr-NK cruise missiles that are capable of striking surface, coastal and underwater targets at a distance of up to 2,600 km.”

Since September when what was gearing up to be a major Syrian-Russian assault on Idlib was called off through the Russian-Turkish ceasefire agreement, possibly in avoidance of the stated threat that American forces would intervene in defense of the al-Qaeda insurgent held province (also claiming to have intelligence of an impending government “chemical attack”), the war has largely taken a back-burner in the media and public consciousness.

But as sporadic fighting between jihadists and Syrian government forces is reignited and fast turning into major offensive operations by government forces, the war could once again be thrust back into the media spotlight as ground zero for a great power confrontation between Moscow and Washington.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

The destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government.

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said:

He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Libya’s Peace Process Dies in Palermo

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet to sort out their differences.

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Authored by Richard Galustian for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity:


“Resounding flop” was the verdict of Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi on this week’s Libya peace conference held in Palermo. He’s not wrong. The conference hosted by Italy’s new government achieved the remarkable feat of making Libya’s tensions worse, not better. Acrimony broke out between the parties, and Turkey’s delegation walked out, its vice president Fuat Oktay accusing unnamed States of trying to “hijack the process.”

Some sources in Palermo suggested, yet to be verified, that the US thought the Conference was not too bad: a joke if true.

Moreover the mystery we might ask is what “process” is there to hijack? Because the truth is, the peace plan the conference was supporting is already dead.

That plan was the brainchild of the United Nations, launched more than a year ago with the aim of ending Libya’s split between warring Eastern and Western governments with elections in December.

Even before the first delegates set foot in the pleasant Sicilian city of Palermo this week, the UN admitted the election date of December 10 they had decided to scrap.

The eastern government, led by the parliament in Tobruk, had made moves in the summer to organize a referendum on a new constitution which would govern the elections. But no referendum was held, and most Libyans agree it would be pointless because Tripoli, home to a third of the country’s population, is under the iron grip of multiple warring militias who have the firepower to defy any new elected government. Hours after the delegates left Palermo, those militias began a new bout of fighting in the Tripoli suburbs.

The best the Palermo negotiators could come up with at the end of the talks was a bland statement declaring their hope that sometime in the future all the Libyan forces will meet in a grand conference to sort out their differences – and this after four years of civil war. To say that chances of this are slim is an understatement.

Dominating the Palermo talks, and indeed Libya’s political landscape, was and is Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan National Army, the country’s most powerful formation. In four years, the LNA has secured Libya’s key oil fields and Benghazi, its second city, ridding most of the east Libya of Islamist militias.

Haftar met reluctantly negotiators in Palermo, but insisted he was not part of the talks process. The Italian government press office said Haftar was not having dinner with the other participants nor joining them for talks. Haftar specifically opposed the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood champion, Qatar, at the event along with Turkey.

Haftar clearly only attended because he had a few days before visiting Moscow – which sent to Sicily Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev – and because also of Egyptian President Sisi’s presence along with his allies.

Possibly Haftar was simply fed up. Twice in the past two years he has attended previous peace talks, hosted each time in Paris, giving the nod to declarations that Libya’s militias would dissolve. Yet the militias remain as strong as ever in Tripoli.

Haftar is detested by the militias and the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) but supported by a large segment of the population – 68 percent, according to an opinion poll by America’s USAID. His popularity is based on a single policy – his demand that security be in the hands of regular police and military, not the militias.

Not everyone is happy, certainly not Turkey, which is backing Islamist, MB and Misratan forces in western Libya who detest Haftar. Yet Turkey’s greatest statesman, the great Kamal Ataturk, was a champion of secularism: After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War One Turkey faced the prospect of utter disintegration, and it was Attaturk who rose to the challenge, defending the country’s borders, while ordering that the mullahs, while responsible for spiritual welfare, have no political power.

Political Islam is not popular in Libya either. Libya is a Muslim country, its people know their faith, and most want government to be decided through the ballot box.

The problem for Libya is what happens next with the peace process broken. Haftar has in the past threatened to move on Tripoli and rid the militias by force if they refuse to dissolve, and it may come to that – a fierce escalation of the civil war.

The second possibility is that Libya will split. The east is, thanks to the LNA, militarily secure. It also controls two thirds of the country’s oil and operates as a separate entity, down to it banknotes, which are printed in Russia while the Tripoli government’s are printed in Britain. A formal split would be an economic boon for the lightly populated east, but a disaster for Tripolitania, its population losing most of the oil, its only source of export income.

Yet with the failure of peace talks, and no sign of Tripoli militias dissolving, military escalation or breakup seem more likely than ever.

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