June 2017 Monthly Forecast

Posted 31 May 2017
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action

In June, 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 Council is expected to renew the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, the authorisation to inspect vessels suspected to be violating the arms embargo, and the measures regarding attempts to illicitly export crude oil from Libya. The Council is also likely to be briefed by the Sanctions Committee’s chair, Ambassador Olof Skoog (Sweden).

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

Key Recent Developments

Deep divisions between the parties remain despite the growing consensus regarding the need to amend some provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA). The issues that are being discussed have to do with the structure of the Presidency Council and the authority of the supreme commander of the armed forces. While the eastern-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High State Council have appointed dialogue delegations, these are not inclusive or representative of key stakeholders in Libya. Over the last two months meetings involving key regional actors, including Algeria, Egypt, Italy, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been initiated in an attempt to try to address the political stalemate. On 21 April, the President of the House, Ageelah Saleh, met with the head of the High State Council, Abdurrahman Swehli, in Rome. On 2-3 May, following several frustrated attempts, the head of the Presidency Council Faiez Serraj met with Khalifa Haftar, who commands the Libyan National Army (LNA), in the UAE. However, these meetings have so far failed to overcome the political deadlock. On 23 May, the Quartet (the AU, the EU, the League of Arab States and the UN) reiterated its support for the coordination role of the UN and encouraged the UN to take the lead in any effort to facilitate a limited amendment of the LPA.

The security situation has continued to deteriorate. The Secretary-General’s 4 April report highlighted the fragility of the situation in the south, particularly the continued build-up of rival military forces, including a Misrata-based militia known as the Third Force, the LNA, and tribal armed groups, competing for the control of strategic infrastructure amid ongoing tribal tensions.  A 12 April statement by P5 ambassadors to Libya in reaction to violence near Tamanhint warned against the risk of escalating violence turning into renewed conflict and underlined the difference between acts against the terrorist threats and acts that can lead to further deterioration of the situation in Libya. (The LNA has repeatedly justified its military operations, including against rival militias, as fighting terrorist groups.) On 18 May, the Third Force, which supports the Presidency Council, attacked the Brak al-Shati air base held by the LNA, killing some 140 people. As a result of the attack, the head of the Presidency Council Serraj suspended its Defence Minister-designate Mahdi al-Barghathi and Third Force commander Jamal Traiki while an investigation is conducted. At the request of the UK, Council members met in consultations on 24 May and were briefed by Kobler on the risks of further military escalation, not only in the south but also in Tripoli. A press statement adopted after the meeting called on all parties in Libya to exercise restraint, reiterated that there can be no military solution and urged all parties to express their support for national reconciliation.

The situation of migrants and refugees in Libya, which was characterised in December 2016 as a “human rights crisis” by UNSMIL and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, continues to be critical. In April, the International Organization for Migration denounced the existence of “slave markets” for migrants in Libya. On 21 May, Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, announced during a visit to Libya that the organisation was stepping up its presence and programmes in Libya given the dire humanitarian needs.

Sanctions-Related Developments

The final report of the Panel of Experts contained several recommendations addressed to the members of the Council. These include:

  • reverting to the obligation of notifying supplies of non-lethal military equipment for the Libyan government;
  • extending the measures targeting crude oil being exported illicitly from Libya to other oil derivatives extracted and refined in Libya or other oil products previously imported to Libya; and
  • listing individuals who meet the sanctions regime’s designation criteria (which include planning, directing or committing acts that violate human rights law or international humanitarian law) in order to contribute to ending the current climate of impunity.

In May, Operation EUNAVFOR Med interdicted the first vessel violating the arms embargo in the high seas off the coast of Libya as authorised by resolution 2292.

Key Issues 

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

Related issues are maintaining the relevance of UN mediation efforts, and pressing external actors to exercise leverage to encourage engagement in the political process and to ensure the coherence of their mediation efforts with a Libya-led process under the aegis of the UN.

A further issue is ensuring that the sanctions regime is aligned with the efforts to restrain violence and promote a political settlement.

Options

Regarding sanctions, Council members could adopt a resolution incorporating the above-mentioned recommendations of the Panel of Experts.

Once the strategic assessment review of the UN presence in Libya is completed in June, the Council could adopt a resolution, without waiting until the September mandate renewal, prioritising a limited set of tasks that UNSMIL can realistically achieve 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

In response to the current deadlock, there seems to be a consensus among Council members about the need to amend the LPA. Council members generally support UNSMIL’s mediation efforts but have arguably failed to set a clear direction to reach and support a political settlement. Despite divisions over the origins of the Libyan conflict, the recent trend of issuing P5 statements can constitute a signal of unity if translated into coherent actions on the ground. UNSMIL’s strategic review, which has for the first time included an independent component, is expected to be completed in June.

The UK is the penholder on Libya.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA

Security Council Resolutions
13 December 2016 S/RES/2323 This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2017.
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.
31 March 2016 S/RES/2278 The Council renewed the sanctions regime for a year.
Security Council Press Statement
26 May 2017 SC/12846 This condemned the military escalation in southern Libya and Tripoli.
Secretary-General’s Report
4 April 2017 S/2017/283 This was the last report on UNSMIL.
Security Council Meeting Record
19 April 2017 S/PV.7927 This was a briefing by Kobler.