February 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 January 2017
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action 

In February, the Council is expected to receive a briefing from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler.

The mandates of the Panel of Experts of the 1970 Sanctions Committee and UNSMIL expire on 31 July and 15 September, respectively.

Key Recent Developments

On 13 December 2016, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2323, renewing UNSMIL’s mandate to focus particularly on mediation and good offices efforts to support the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), the consolidation of the governance, security and economic arrangements of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and subsequent phases of the Libyan transition process. The resolution encourages UNSMIL to continue to prioritise its tasks and mediation efforts in full consultation with the Presidency Council and other Libyan institutions and in response to the needs and the evolving situation in the country. Council members diverged over whether to extend the mission for six months in order to closely monitor the situation in Libya and allow for possible changes to the mandate if needed or for a longer one-year period as recommended by the Secretary-General. Some Council members felt that a longer mandate would provide more stability for the mission and shortening UNSMIL’s extension would cast a negative light on developments in Libya. As a compromise, the mission was extended for nine months, but the resolution specifies that the Council stands ready to review the mandate of the mission if needed after a strategic assessment review is conducted in early 2017.

During consultations with Kobler on 6 December 2016, some Council members raised concerns at what they perceived as too positive a portrayal of the situation in Libya and stressed the lack of progress on the political front one year after the signing of the LPA. As a result, a press statement issued after the meeting included language expressing the Council’s deep concern over the challenging political context and serious political polarisation in Libya.

The LPA has failed to broaden its basis of support. International backing for the Presidency Council of the GNA has so far not translated into an increased capacity to deliver on the ground. The nine-member Presidency Council’s work continues to be hindered by the boycott of two of its members and the lack of endorsement by the House of Representatives, its failure to provide basic services to the population and its excessive reliance on militias. On 2 January, one of the Presidency Council’s deputy prime ministers, Musa al-Koni, resigned over the Council’s failure to deliver.

Military success against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and its affiliates (namely the takeover of Sirte in early December and the military offensive in Benghazi) has been followed by increased tension and clashes among competing armed groups, such as the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar and Misrata-based militias, nominally allied with the Presidency Council. Haftar has made moves westward in Al-Jufra and Sabha. In an early December offensive against the LNA in the Oil Crescent region, several militias attempted to take over oil facilities that have been under the control of the LNA and managed by the National Oil Corporation since September 2016. (Reportedly the GNA’s Defence Minister-designate al-Mahdi al-Barghathi was in support of the operation, which was later condemned by the Presidency Council.) On 11 January, Haftar visited the Admiral Kuznetsov, a Russian aircraft carrier that had recently been stationed off Syria. Aboard the ship, Haftar, who had previously asked Russia to support lifting the arms embargo for the LNA, spoke via video link with Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu. On 12 January, Khalifa Ghwell, who became the self-appointed prime minister of a so-called national salvation government in 2015, seized several ministries in Tripoli in an attempted coup.

Following two postponements, members of the Libyan Political Dialogue met on 22 January in Tunisia; no representatives from eastern Libya attended. At the meeting, which was not attended by UNSMIL representatives, members discussed a proposal to reduce the number of members of the Presidency Council from nine to three, separate the role of prime minister from the head of the Presidency Council and amend article 8 of the LPA regarding the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces.

On 21 January, representatives of Libya’s neighbours—Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, Chad, Niger and Tunisia—met in Cairo with Kobler and representatives of the AU and the League of Arab States. In a joint statement, they stressed the need for a comprehensive political dialogue between all Libyan parties as the only way out of the crisis, rejecting a military solution to the conflict. In a press conference following the meeting, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokry expressed his intention to convene direct talks between the leaders of the Presidency Council, the House of Representatives and Haftar.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 13 December 2016, a joint report released by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights abuses against migrants in Libya concluded that the situation constituted a “human rights crisis”, with migrants subjected to arbitrary detention, torture, other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and sexual exploitation. The report recommended a number of measures for Libya, including releasing the most vulnerable migrants as a step towards urgently ending all arbitrary detentions, decriminalising irregular migration and adopting an asylum law, while also recommending that countries of destination beyond Libya expand safe and regular entry channels for refugees and other migrants and continue search-and-rescue operations at sea. In a statement accompanying the report, Kobler said that Libya must acknowledge the abuse of migrants but that the responsibility for addressing migration was broader and included countries of origin and destination.

Key Issues

The overarching issue is to ensure that the parties agree on a consensual solution for the political deadlock that addresses the issues raised by those refusing to support the LPA.

Pressing external actors involved in Libya to exercise leverage to encourage engagement in the political process and to ensure the coherence of mediation efforts is a related issue.

The potential for ISIL to disperse and increase its regional reach as a result of ongoing offensives against its strongholds in Libya is an urgent issue.

Options

Options for the Council include holding an unscripted and frank discussion to re-assess and seek agreement on a political strategy for Libya.

As soon as the strategic assessment review of the UN presence in Libya is completed, the Council could adopt a resolution prioritising a limited set of tasks that UNSMIL can realistically achieve in order to align the mission’s mandate with the political, security and operational realities on the ground.

Council members could also organise a visit to Libya and the region to hold discussions with the parties, including spoilers, and regional stakeholders to help overcome the political deadlock.

Council Dynamics

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 of Representatives and have engaged with parallel institutions, including providing various degrees of support to Haftar’s forces, while others have been interacting bilaterally with the Presidency Council of the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya. One of the suggestions in the Secretary-General’s report was a review of the international community’s approach to the Libyan democratic transition process, should efforts to adopt a new constitution and establish democratically elected institutions within a reasonable timeframe fail. Despite the opportunity provided by the December 2016 renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate, this strategic discussion has yet to happen in the Council, which currently includes key actors on Libya such as Egypt and Italy, in addition to the permanent members.

The UK is the penholder on Libya and Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden) chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA

Security Council Resolution
13 December 2016 S/RES/2323 This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2017.
Security Council Meeting Record
6 December 2016 S/PV.7827 This was a briefing on Libya.
Security Council Press Statement
7 December 2016 SC/12613 This was a press statement that expressed deep concern over the challenging political and security context in Libya.