Expected Council Action
In February, the Council is expected to extend the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and renew the measures related to the illicit export of crude oil from Libya ahead of their expiry on 15 February 2020.
The mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expires on 15 September 2020.
Key Recent Developments
Libya’s capital, Tripoli, has been the scene of fighting for over nine 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 internationally recognised and UN-backed 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. In his 15 January report on UNSMIL, the Secretary-General described Libya as having “endured a downward spiral of conflict”.
In July 2019, the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé, proposed three steps to end the conflict: a truce, a high-level conference of “concerned countries”, and a “Libyan meeting of leading and influential personalities from all over the country”.
The proxy dimension of the Libyan conflict keeps intensifying in breach of UN sanctions. Reportedly, Turkey and Qatar support the GNA militarily while Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provide military support to the LNA, and different Chadian and Sudanese armed groups support both sides. 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 support of the LNA. On 2 January, the Turkish parliament approved the deployment of troops to Libya. Following a request by the GNA, Turkey started sending troops on 5 January. The latest report by the Secretary-General says that “the dangers and direct consequences of foreign interference are increasingly evident. To increase the number of fighters, there has been growing involvement of mercenaries. The presence of such professional fighters has been linked to an escalation in violence”. Speaking at a press stakeout following Council consultations on Libya on 6 January, Salamé directed his remarks to the countries involved in Libya: “Take your hands out of Libya. The country is suffering too much from foreign interference”.
On 8 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for a ceasefire in Libya starting on 12 January. An attempt to have both the head of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, and Haftar sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow failed, with Haftar leaving Moscow without signing. Briefing the Council on 30 January on the latest developments in Libya, Salamé reported that “the truce holds only in name.”
At the Berlin Conference on Libya, high-level representatives from Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the Republic of the Congo, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the US, and High Representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, and the League of Arab States, adopted conclusions on 19 January on six areas (“baskets”) related to the conflict in Libya. The conference represented the second of Salamé’s three steps. With these conclusions, the participants committed to refraining from “interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya” and urged all international actors to do the same. They further called upon the United Nations “to facilitate ceasefire negotiations between the parties, including through the immediate establishment of technical committees to monitor and verify the implementation of the ceasefire”.
They also called on the Council to impose “appropriate sanctions on those who are found to be in violation of the ceasefire arrangements and on Member States to enforce these”. Regarding the arms embargo, participants committed themselves “to unequivocally and fully respect and implement the arms embargo” established by the Council and called “on all international actors to do the same”. The participants further agreed to establish an International Follow-Up Committee (IFC) to coordinate efforts to implement the conclusions. Sarraj and Haftar were both in Berlin but not formally a part of the conference. Shortly before the conference, forces allied with the LNA effectively shut down nearly all of Libya’s oil fields and terminals, leading to massive revenue loss for the Libyan state.
UNSMIL began to work on the six baskets before the conference. The six baskets are: political, economic and financial, security, arms embargo, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Sarraj and Haftar have each nominated five representatives for the military 5+5 committee (part of the “security” basket). At the time of writing, a first meeting, initially anticipated for 28 January, had not taken place.
Council members met in consultations on Libya on 6 January and 21 January. They adopted press elements at both meetings. On 21 January, the Council was briefed by the Secretary-General on the Berlin conference. Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy (Viet Nam), president of the Council in January, read out press elements, saying that Council members welcomed the conclusions, reiterated their support for Salamé’s work, and urged the parties to the conflict to engage in the 5+5 committee to conclude a ceasefire agreement as soon as possible. He added that the members of the Council would follow up on the conclusions in the coming days. At a press stakeout following the consultations, the Secretary-General emphasised that “one of the parties of the conflict has not yet expressed publicly support to the conclusions”, referring to Haftar.
According to the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNSMIL, 140,000 people have fled since Haftar’s assault on Tripoli, 284 civilians have been killed, and 363 have been injured.
The UN’s 2019 humanitarian response plan for Libya of $201.6 million has been funded at less than 50 percent, with 50.2 percent or $101.3 million outstanding.
Key Issues and Options
An immediate issue for the Council is the renewal of both the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee and the measures related to the illicit export of crude oil from Libya. Upon renewing the panel’s mandate, an option for the Council would be to make sure that the panel has the necessary gender expertise, as requested in resolution 2441. Another option would be to request the panel to increase its written reporting to the Council to closely monitor the implementation of the Berlin conference conclusions.
An ongoing issue is the military conflict, which threatens to deepen long-standing political and economic divisions between different parts of Libya, contributing to the overall instability of the country. At the time of writing, the Council was considering an endorsement of the Berlin conference conclusions. Council members will continue following closely the progress made by Salamé in his proposed three steps and in implementing the six baskets of the Berlin conference conclusions. Council members are eager to see a permanent ceasefire between the parties to enable further progress on the Berlin conference conclusions.
In the longer term, a Council visiting mission to Libya or a full-fledged—covering the whole country—visit by the Libya Sanctions Committee could be considered.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Libya has been 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. Now that the various countries, including Council members, that support the conflicting parties have signed up to the Berlin conference conclusions, there may be prospects for more unity in the Council’s approach to the Libya file.
The UK is the penholder on Libya, sharing the pen with Germany on the sanctions file. Jürgen Schulz, Germany’s Deputy Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|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).|
|15 January 2020S/2020/41||This was the latest report on UNSMIL.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|29 November 2019S/2019/914||This was the latest final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.|