Expected Council Action
In June, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) which expires on 15 June. UNSMIL head Martin Kobler will brief on recent political developments and the Secretary-General’s latest report.
The Council also expects a briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia).
The mandate of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts expires on 31 July 2017.
Key Recent Developments
Despite the arrival of seven of the nine members of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli on 30 March and the relatively calm security situation in the capital, the Presidency Council has failed to secure the endorsement of the GNA by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives. According to the Libyan Political Agreement, the House has to conduct a formal vote on the composition of the proposed GNA and amend the Constitutional Declaration. (UNSMIL continues its efforts to bring on board boycotting members of the Presidency Council Ali Al-Qatrani and Omar Al-Aswad.)
House members have been repeatedly prevented by its president, Aguila Saleh, from holding a vote on a list of GNA candidates, submitted on 15 February by the Presidency Council. A majority of House members declared on 21 April their intention to convene in a different location to endorse the GNA while reiterating reservations about article 8 of the Agreement regarding the transfer of military power. To date, the vote has not taken place, nor has the House convened outside Tobruk. On 13 May, the US imposed sanctions on Saleh for repeatedly blocking votes by the House needed to support Libya’s political transition.
Although the Presidency Council has taken control of several ministries, the Tripoli-based “National Salvation Government” continues to reject peacefully transferring authority. Members of the General National Congress voted to amend the Constitutional Declaration and reconstituted themselves as the State Council—a consultative institution provided for by the Agreement—but questions remain regarding the legality of this move.
The security situation continues to be critical, particularly in the east. In Benghazi, General Khalifa Haftar launched a new military offensive with the stated objective of evicting the Shura Council and its allies from the city, taking over some neighbourhoods. UNSMIL recorded a high number of civilian casualties in Benghazi as a result of attacks by the different parties and their failure to allow safe and voluntary evacuation of civilians. The situation in Tripoli is largely calm, despite episodes of violence among rival militias. The Presidency Council is currently protected in Tripoli by Libyan army and police units under the command of the Temporary Security Committee and by armed groups that are nominally subordinate to the Ministry of Interior.
The presence of terrorist groups continues to be a threat to Libya and the region. Despite losses sustained in Sabratha and Derna, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) still controls a 250-kilometre stretch of the coastal area around Sirte in central Libya. A 3 March report by the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989/2253 ISIL (Dae’sh)/Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee highlighted the substantial risk that ISIL could attempt to raise funds by looting the cultural heritage of Libya and said awareness of this risk should be raised.
According to the 16 May Secretary-General’s report, there has been a steady in-country presence since 30 March of UNSMIL staff focused primarily on supporting the Presidency Council and its Temporary Security Committee. However, UNSMIL has not been able to re-establish its Tripoli office and permanently redeploy staff on the ground. The deployment of a sizeable armed UN security team—a guard unit—is a precondition for the permanent return to Tripoli of the mission.
The International Organization for Migration recorded 631 deaths on the Mediterranean routes to Europe in April alone. According to OCHA, the number of internally displaced persons across Libya has reached 417,000, in addition to 100,000 refugees and 135,000 migrants. The Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya continues to be severely underfunded.
On 31 March, the Council adopted resolution 2278, extending until 31 July 2017 the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and the measures addressing the illicit exports of crude oil from Libya. The resolution contained language affirming the Council’s readiness to consider changes to the sanctions regime (namely the assets freeze and the arms embargo) at the request of the GNA when appropriate.
At the request of Libya’s ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee on 27 April approved the designation of an Indian-flagged tanker carrying crude oil illegally exported from eastern Libya in defiance of the measures under resolution 2278 of 31 March. On 12 May this entry was deleted from the sanctions list following the return of the crude oil to Libya.
After a ministerial meeting aimed at garnering support for Libya’s Presidency Council held in Vienna on 16 May, the participant governments and international organisations (a group of the main stakeholders, including the five permanent Council members) issued a joint communiqué supporting the Presidency Council’s intention to submit arms embargo exemption requests to the Committee to combat ISIL in Libya. On 23 May, the Council of the EU extended the mandate of EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia to build the capacity of the Libyan coastguard and Navy and to support the implementation of the arms embargo on the high seas.
The overarching issues are how to ensure the broad acceptance of the Agreement, including its endorsement by the House; how to bring on board those unwilling to sign it; and how to change the behaviour of spoilers actively undermining the political process or to isolate them.
A key issue is ensuring that military actors commit to implementing the ceasefire and other security arrangements provided for in the Agreement. Stopping violations of international humanitarian law by the parties is a related issue.
The growing threat in Libya of terrorist groups with regional reach is an urgent issue.
Options for Council members on Libya include:
- adopting a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate for six months as recommended by the Secretary-General, with the view to renewing the mandate once a GNA is in place, emphasising the role that UNSMIL will continue to play in broadening support for the Agreement;
- visiting Libya or the region or both to hold discussions with the parties, including spoilers, and regional stakeholders to generate momentum for the endorsement of the GNA, and to discuss with Libyan stakeholders the Council’s support for Libya and the sanctions in place; and
- considering imposing sanctions on spoilers, including member states identified as violating the sanctions regime.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts and have repeatedly stated that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Libya. There is also a feeling of urgency among Council members given the growing threat of ISIL in Libya. Some Council members emphasise the importance of a formal endorsement of the GNA by the House as per the political agreement. However, other Council members are already interacting bilaterally with the Presidency Council of the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya. This dynamic has been reflected recently in how to refer to the GNA and its Presidency Council in the negotiations on resolutions 2273 and 2278, of 15 and 31 March respectively, and in a 1 April press statement.
In May, EU Council members started negotiating a draft resolution that would authorise Operation Sophia to interdict ships on the high seas off the coast of Libya to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo. In the past it has been difficult to negotiate resolutions authorising the interception of vessels on the high seas or in the territorial waters of a third country, whether in the context of fighting human trafficking, the implementation of sanctions or counter-piracy measures.
On a separate note, even though it is expected that Operation Sophia will eventually operate in the territorial waters of Libya, this is contingent upon an invitation by the government.
The UK is the penholder on Libya.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 March 2016 S/RES/2278||The Council renewed the sanctions regime for a year.|
|15 March 2016 S/RES/2273||This was a resolution renewing UNSMIL until 15 June 2016.|
|16 May 2016 S/2016/452||This was the most recent report on Libya.|
|Security Council Letters|
|21 March 2016 S/2016/275||This was a letter from Libyan Ambassador Ibrahim O. Dabbashi calling for the Council to explicitly allow the reinvestment of assets frozen under sanctions in order to protect their value.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|22 April 2016 SC/12334||This press statement deplored the maritime tragedy that resulted in up to 500 deaths.|
|1 April 2016 SC/12313||This press statement encouraged the Presidency Council to immediately begin its work in Tripoli to broaden the basis of its support.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|4 March 2016 S/2016/209||This was the final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya.|
|3 March 2016 S/2016/210||This letter transmitted the recommendations of the Monitoring Team on measures that could be taken to strengthen monitoring of global implementation of resolutions 2199 and 2178.|