UN ends Libya talks in Tunisia with no breakthrough

Ghassan Salame, special representative to the Secretary General of the United Nations for Libya, holds a press conference in the Tunisian capital Tunis on October 21, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2017
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UN ends Libya talks in Tunisia with no breakthrough

TUNIS: Month-long UN-backed talks aimed at bridging differences between rival Libyan factions ended on Saturday with no discernable progress toward stabilizing the country and paving the way for elections.
A month ago, UN envoy Ghassan Salame, the latest in a series of Libya envoys since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, announced a one-year action plan for a transition toward presidential and parliamentary elections.
Since then the UN has hosted in Tunis delegations from rival parliaments from eastern Libya and Tripoli, which are meant to draw up amendments to a previous UN-mediated plan signed in December 2015.
But at the end of the second round of talks Salame said only that discussions would continue, without giving a new date.
“There are some areas of consensus... but there are parts which need discussions with the political leaderships inside Libya,” Salame told reporters, without giving details.
Salame will go to Tripoli next week to discuss how to move the talks forward, a UN source added.
The North African country has been in turmoil since Gaddafi’s downfall gave space to militants and smuggling networks that have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe.
Political and military fractures have left the country mired in conflict and its economy in freefall. Rival parliaments and governments have vied for power.
The UN tried a similar approach in 2015 of hosting Libyans in luxury hotels abroad but the deal never won support from the power-brokers and factions aligned with military commander Khalifa Haftar that control eastern Libya.
Haftar is just one of many players in Libya controlled by armed groups divided among political, religious, regional and business lines.
A UN source said a major obstacle at the Tunis talks had been how to integrate Haftar, who is opposed by many in western Libya, in any deal and whether he would control a future national army.
Western states have tried to work with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, but it has been hamstrung by internal splits and been unable to halt a slide in living standards or tame the power of armed groups.
Under the new UN plan, once amendments have been agreed a national conference is meant to approve the members of a transitional government that would run the country until elections.


Hundreds of jobs axed in PLO cutback

Updated 22 April 2018
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Hundreds of jobs axed in PLO cutback

  • Among the departments to be axed from the PLO are social affairs, military, Jerusalem, sports, youth and the diaspora
  • Most of the PNC’s budget goes to pay salaries to staff who have little work to do

AMMAN: Hundreds of staff who are paid salaries but do little work will lose their jobs in a major downsizing of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

The restructuring is aimed at ending the duplication of tasks by the PLO and the Palestinian government, and reducing the size of the 700-member Palestine National Council, which is expected to lose half its staff and half its budget. 

Among the departments to be axed from the PLO are social affairs, military, Jerusalem, sports, youth and the diaspora. Those that deal with refugees, planning, culture, media and the national fund will remain.

“Why do we need staff and offices in the PLO for such areas as social affairs and education, when we have major ministries in the government that are focusing on these areas?” Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, told Arab News. 

“When the PLO was responsible for all Palestinian affairs, this made sense, but now we have a government with relevant ministries and it doesn’t make sense to have such duplication.”

Most PLO staff belong to the various factions that make up the organization, and have been on the payroll for many years. This arrangement allowed these factions to provide jobs for their members. 

PLO sources told Arab News that the restructuring would also affect the Palestine National Council. The PNC holds occasional extraordinary meetings, but its full regular session scheduled for April 30 will be the first for 22 years.

Most of the PNC’s budget goes to pay salaries to staff who have little work to do. “The membership of the PNC will have to be cut in half, as will its budget,” a PLO source said. 

Najeeb Qaddoumi, a PNC member and senior Fatah activist in Jordan, confirmed that a restructuring would take place on April 30 but denied that it would be downsizing. “Some departments might be eliminated and others might be boosted,” he said.

Ali Qleibo, an artist, author and lecturer at Al Quds University, said the PLO had “exhausted its role since Lebanon and has caused chaos in the land.”

The downsizing will surprise analysts who had expected the Palestinians to revitalize the PLO after the failure of the peace process and the lack of trust in the Palestinian Authority.