Expected Council Action
In September, the Council is expecting a briefing by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler, followed by consultations. The Council will also receive a briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia).
UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 December, and the mandate of the Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts expires on 31 July 2017.
Key Recent Developments
Since the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in December 2015 by participants in the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue, the failure of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives to endorse the Government of National Accord (GNA) has critically hampered the political situation. On 22 August, the House rejected a cabinet list submitted on 15 February by the Presidency Council of the GNA. The House, reportedly in full quorum, also asked the Presidency Council to submit a new consensual list of proposed ministers. This requires agreement by all nine members of the Presidency Council, including two who boycotted it asserting that it is insufficiently inclusive. One of them, Omar al-Aswad, announced on 26 August his intention to re-join the Presidency Council.
Five months since its arrival in Tripoli, the Presidency Council has faced numerous challenges in the performance of its duties. On 16-18 July, the members of the Libyan Political Dialogue discussed with the Presidency Council the difficulties it was facing. At the meeting, participants identified several areas where progress by the Presidency Council was crucial: delivery of basic services, implementation of security arrangements stipulated by the LPA, resumption of production and export of oil and bringing on board its two boycotting members. Kobler briefed Security Council members on these discussions on 22 July, and in a press statement they encouraged the Presidency Council to continue efforts to broaden the basis of its support and to take the necessary decisions to tackle Libya’s challenges. By the time of the House vote, attempts to restore oil production (through reaching an agreement with the armed group known as Petroleum Facilities Guard) and take control of sovereign funds (by appointing a steering committee to run the Libyan Investment Authority) had sparked controversies and yielded limited results.
General Khalifa Haftar continues a military offensive aimed at evicting the Shura Council and its allies from Benghazi. On 20 July, three French soldiers who were supporting this offensive died in a helicopter crash, which led to the withdrawal of French special forces soon afterwards. (Although for some time most Council members have considered, at least nominally, the formation of the GNA as a prerequisite for counter-terrorism assistance, the presence of British and American special forces in eastern Libya has been previously reported.)
The offensive against Sirte, a coastal town under the partial control of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), continues to advance, involving mostly Misrata-based militias nominally under the command of the GNA with aerial support by the US. (Since 1 August, the US African Command has carried out some 80 airstrikes against ISIL targets in Sirte.) An 18 July report by the Secretary-General—discussed two days later by the Council—highlighted how success against ISIL resulted in increased tensions among competing armed groups (such as the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar and Misrata-based militias).
The risk that chemical weapons might fall into the hands of terrorist groups motivated the adoption on 22 July of resolution 2298, which authorises the transfer of chemical weapons out of Libya in order to destroy them. On 27 August, some 400 tons of chemical weapons were transferred to a Danish ship in Misrata, on their way to Germany, where they will be destroyed.
The security situation and difficult socioeconomic conditions continue to impact vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced persons (IDPs), migrants and refugees. According to a displacement tracking matrix published in August by the International Organization for Migration, the number of IDPs across Libya has reached 348,000, in addition to 310,000 returnees and 277,000 migrants. The report also said that 2,742 deaths have been recorded in 2016 on the central Mediterranean Sea route that connects Libya and Italy.
On 14 June, the Council adopted resolution 2292, which provided legal grounds for the extension of the mandate of the EU’s EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia to support the implementation of the arms embargo in the Mediterranean. The resolution provides a 12-month authorisation for member states to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya bound to or from Libya that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo. It further authorises member states to seize and dispose of arms and ammunition found during these inspections. On 18 August, the Sanctions Committee updated its Implementation Assistance Notice Number 3 to inform member states of reporting requirements to the Committee when attempted or actual violations of the embargo are detected, and regarding the disposal of embargoed materiel.
The overarching issue is to ensure a solution to the political deadlock that addresses the issues raised by those refusing to support the LPA without reopening all of its provisions. Bringing on board the two boycotting members of the Presidency Council and agreeing on a cabinet that can be endorsed by the House are urgent and related issues.
Mitigating the impact that current counter-terrorist operations, conducted by different armed groups, may have on the power dynamics on the ground and the efforts to bring together the different parties within the framework of the LPA are key issues. Exercising leverage by the external actors supporting these operations to encourage engagement in the political process and for the parties to conduct hostilities with respect for international humanitarian law is a related issue.
The potential for ISIL to disperse and increase its regional reach as a result of ongoing offensives against its strongholds is an urgent issue.
Options for the Council include adopting a presidential statement or resolution:
- reaffirming its support for the Presidency Council and calling on it to propose an inclusive cabinet;
- urging the House to consider the proposal swiftly and in good faith; and
- reiterating UNSMIL’s good offices mandate in this context.
Council members could also visit Libya and the region to hold discussions with the parties, including spoilers, and regional stakeholders to overcome the political deadlock.
Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts but have arguably failed to set a clear direction to reach and support a political settlement. Some Council members have emphasised the importance of a formal endorsement of the GNA by the House, while others have been interacting bilaterally with the Presidency Council of the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya. Several resolutions since December 2015 have called upon member states to cease support to and official contact with parallel institutions that claim to have legitimate authority, but it seems that this has not been respected by several Council members, including permanent members.
In December 2015, the Council mandated UNSMIL to support the establishment of the GNA and, as a result of the deadlock over this process, the Council renewed the same mandate with technical rollover resolutions in March and June. The Council could take advantage of the current impasse to collectively revisit (and agree on) its political strategy for Libya.
The UK is the penholder on Libya. Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia) chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|22 July 2016 S/RES/2298||This was a resolution providing for Libya’s category 2 chemical weapons to be transferred and destroyed outside of the country.|
|14 June 2016 S/RES/2292||This was a resolution providing a one year authorisation for member states to inspect, in the high seas off the coast of Libya, vessels bound to or from Libya.|
|13 June 2016 S/RES/2291||This was a resolution renewing the mandate of UNSMIL until 15 December 2016.|
|18 July 2016 S/2016/627||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the threat posed to Libya and neighbouring countries by foreign terrorist fighters recruited by or joining ISIL and Al-Qaida.|
|Security Council Letters|
|10 August 2016 S/2016/701||This attached a letter from House speaker Agila Saleh expressing concerns that the Benghazi Defence Companies were planning to mount attacks in eastern Libya.|
|11 July 2016 S/2016/605||This was from Agila Saleh, saying that all decisions issued by the Presidency Council are considered null and void and without any effect until its endorsement by the House.|
|2 June 2016 S/2016/508||This was a letter from Libyan Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, questioning the report of the Secretary-General for equating the forces loyal to Haftar with other armed groups.|
|Security Council Press Statement|
|22 July 2016 SC/12456||This was a press statement welcoming the 16-17 July meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue and the Presidency Council.|