January 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2019
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Expected Council Action

In January, the Council is expected to receive briefings by the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany.

The mandate of UNSMIL expires on 15 September 2020, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 February 2020. 

Key Recent Developments

Libya’s capital, Tripoli, has been the scene of fighting for over eight months, starting on 4 April 2019 when General Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive towards Tripoli and against the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based there. Libya does not have professional security forces, and the GNA currently relies on armed groups for its security. On 12 December 2019, Haftar, using sharp rhetoric, announced a “broad and total assault” on Tripoli. At press time, there are no confirmed reports of Haftar’s forces having made advances into the city.

On 27 November 2019, the internationally recognised and UN-backed GNA and Turkey signed two agreements, one on cooperation on military and security matters and one on maritime boundary delimitation. The military cooperation agreement, which was approved by the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission on 16 December 2019, enables the GNA to request Turkish troops, among other things, which would significantly step up the military support Turkey has been providing to the GNA. The maritime agreement, which affects drilling rights, has further complicated the relationship between Turkey and Greece, with the latter expelling the Libyan ambassador and arguing that the agreement violates international law by infringing on Greek sovereignty. The Libyan House of Representatives, based in Tobruk and allied with the GNA, contested the validity of the agreement. Greece sent a letter to the Council on 9 December 2019, asking the Council to condemn the agreement.

The Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee issued its final report on 29 November 2019. It named Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as supplying weapons to the conflict parties in Libya, “routinely and sometimes blatantly” in violation of the arms embargo. Armed groups from Chad and Sudan are also involved in the fighting for different sides of the conflict; however, the panel assessed their influence on the outcomes of the fighting as limited.

The panel called the arms embargo “ineffective”, citing Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as major arms suppliers for forces allied with Haftar, and Turkey for forces allied with the GNA. This support was acknowledged by members of the GNA, including President Fayez al-Sarraj.  In one instance, vehicles from Turkey were received on behalf of Salah Badi’s Al Samoud brigade, which is affiliated with the GNA. The Council designated Salah Badi as subject to sanctions in November 2018. The panel further noted that a Haftar-affiliated battalion received training in Jordan, also in non-compliance with Council sanctions. The use of unmanned combat aerial vehicles (drones) has “escalated”, with Haftar’s forces having more advanced equipment at the time of publication of the report.

The panel described the increased interference of foreign elements, which includes armed groups from Chad and Sudan, as a “direct threat to the security and stability of Libya”, since this foreign presence “may lead to further instability” in the war-torn country. The Sudanese Justice and Equality Movement is reportedly supporting forces allied with the GNA, while other Sudanese armed groups are supporting forces allied with Haftar. The Sudanese paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are reported to support Haftar’s forces as well. The panel concluded that Sudan and the RSF’s General Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagalo are in non-compliance with Council sanctions. In addition, different Chadian armed groups support Haftar’s and GNA forces. According to Libyan and US officials, mercenaries of the private but reportedly Kremlin-affiliated Russian military company Wagner Group are also involved on the ground in Libya in support of Haftar.

The panel further concluded that neither side has the military capacity to win the conflict, with the frontlines remaining unchanged since April. According to the report, the external support to both sides continues to enforce the proxy character of the conflict in post-2011 Libya.

Individuals listed for targeted sanctions continue to operate in Libya, including Abd al-Rahman al-Milad, who is reportedly working with GNA-affiliated fighters. Mohamed Kashlaf, head of the Shuhada al Nasr brigade who is sanctioned for his leading role in the smuggling of migrants, continues to be paid by the GNA and is in charge of securing the Zawiyah oil complex, Libya’s largest refinery.

The self-styled eastern-based “National Oil Corporation”, that exists in parallel to the National Oil Corporation of the GNA, continues to try to export crude oil, which is illicit according to resolution 2441. The panel registered four such attempts by the
“National Oil Corporation” during the reporting period, with the latter stating its goal of becoming a legitimate institution that controls all of Libya’s oil. The report further indicates that the eastern “Central Bank” of Libya continues to contract companies to print money.

In August 2019, Salamé proposed three steps for an end to the conflict: a humanitarian truce during Eid al-Adha, including confidence-building measures between the parties; a high-level conference of “concerned countries”; and a “Libyan meeting of leading and influential personalities from all over the country”. In support of Salamé’s second step, five meetings were held in Berlin, the latest on 10 December, convened by Germany and co-led with UNSMIL.

On 18 November 2019, Salamé briefed the Council on the latest developments in Libya.

On 2 December, Council members issued a press statement on that meeting. On 6 November 2019, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda delivered her semi-annual briefing on recent developments concerning cases in Libya.

At press time, the UN’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Libya of $201.6 million was funded at close to 50 percent, with $101.3 million outstanding.

Sanctions-Related Developments

During the 18 November 2019 meeting on Libya, Schulz was unable to brief the Council in his position as chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee because the committee could not reach consensus on his statement, specifically with regard to a proposed reference to the case of German-Tunisian national Moncef Kartas, one of the panel’s arms experts, who was arrested and detained on espionage charges by Tunisian authorities on 26 March 2019. According to the UN Spokesperson, this was “in violation of the privileges and immunities that have been granted to Mr. Kartas”. On 21 May 2019, a Tunisian appeals court decided to release Kartas, and he was able to return to Germany. The case against him is still open. On 25 November 2019, the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee briefed the committee on its final report.

Women, Peace and Security

On 5 November 2018, the Council extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts until 15 February 2020 with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia). The abstentions were prompted by a provision in what is now resolution 2441 that contains a stand-alone designation criterion for sanctioning individuals for acts that “include but are not limited to planning, directing or committing acts involving sexual and gender-based violence”. In its 9 December 2019 report, the panel identified “individuals that had more than likely been subjected to abuse and sexual and gender-based violence”. However, “the necessary evidential levels for reporting to the Committee could not be met”. The panel elaborated that they were, among other things, unable to access confidential locations where interviews with victims might be conducted or to obtain the expert opinion of independent trauma and psychological counsellors.

During the 18 November 2019 briefing, Council members were also briefed by Rida Ahmed Al Tubuly, director and co-founder of Together We Build It, an organisation advocating for women’s roles in a formal peace process. She called on the international community as well as UNSMIL to “redesign the negotiating table” by redistributing power and making it gender-sensitive and inclusive. According to Al Tubuly, this change can be achieved if the Council sets an example by implementing the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Key Issues and Options

Council members are following closely the progress made by Salamé in his proposed three steps. In case of significant progress at the political level, the Council may consider endorsing any advances.

An ongoing issue is the military escalation, which threatens to deepen long-standing political and economic divisions between different parts of Libya, contributing to the overall instability of the country. Individual Council members could use their influence to put pressure on the parties and countries to adhere to the arms embargo. In the longer term, a Council visiting mission to Libya or a full-fledged visit by the Libya Sanctions Committee that covers the whole country could be considered.

Council and Wider Dynamics

Libya remains a divisive issue within the Council. Council resolutions and presidential statements routinely call upon UN member states to cease support for parallel institutions in Libya, but some countries, including permanent members of the Council, fail to respect these calls and continue to support Haftar militarily. As stated in the final report by the Panel of Experts, militias affiliated with the GNA also receive military support from abroad. Tunisia, which joins the Council in January for its 2020-2021 term, is expected to make Libya one of its priority issues.

The UK is the penholder on Libya, sharing the pen with Germany on the sanctions file. Ambassador Schulz, Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee. 

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Security Council Resolutions
3 October 2019S/RES/2491 This resolution renewed the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya that they have reasonable grounds to suspect are being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking.
12 September 2019S/RES/2486 This was a resolution extending UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2020.
10 June 2019S/RES/2473 This resolution renewed the authorisation for member states, acting nationally or through regional organisations, to inspect vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya bound to or from the country that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo.
5 November 2018S/RES/2441 This was a resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts and renewing measures related to the illicit export of crude oil from Libya until 15 February 2020 adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).
Security Council Meeting Records
18 November 2019S/PV.8667 This was a briefing on the situation in Libya.
6 November 2019S/PV.8660 This was a semi-annual briefing by the ICC Prosecutor.
Security Council Press Statement
2 December 2019SC/14037 This was on the escalation of violence in Libya.
Sanctions Committee Document
29 November 2019S/2019/914 This was the latest final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

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