March 2020 Monthly Forecast

Posted 28 February 2020
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Expected Council Action

In March, 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.

UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September 2020, measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya expire on 30 April 2021, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 May 2021.

Key Recent Developments

Libya’s capital, Tripoli, has been the scene of fighting for over ten 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. Yacoub El Hillo, Deputy Special Representative and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, said during a 17 February video teleconference for UN correspondents in New York that this protracted conflict was affecting civilians “on a scale that Libya has never seen before”, noting that 150,000 people have been displaced since April 2019.

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 Russian military company Wagner Group are also involved on the ground in support of the LNA.

In July 2019, 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”.

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 on 13 January failed, with Haftar leaving Moscow without signing.

On 19 January, high-level representatives from Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, the Republic of the Congo, Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US, and high-level representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, and the League of Arab States adopted conclusions at the Berlin Conference on Libya 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”.

The Berlin Conference participants 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. Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, head of the GNA, 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. The oil fields and terminals remain blocked.

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 matters. Serraj and Haftar have each nominated five representatives for the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (part of the “security” basket). The first round of talks of the 5+5 commission started on 3 February in Geneva, with Salamé conducting shuttle diplomacy between the two parties. Its second round started on 18 February. The day after, the GNA announced it was suspending its participation in the talks, following an LNA attack on Tripoli’s port. At press time, the talks had continued and the second round of the talks had concluded.

On 11 February, the Council adopted resolution 2509, renewing the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 May 2021. The resolution further renewed until 30 April 2021 measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya. The resolution included new language related to the illicit import of petroleum to Libya. Russia abstained in the vote, saying that “the negative impact of importing oil products is not that obvious for the Libyan economy.”

On 12 February, the Council adopted resolution 2510, endorsing the conclusions of the Berlin conference. Russia abstained, explaining after the vote that “we still do not have a clear understanding of whether all Libyan parties are ready to implement that decision”, referring to the conclusions. The UK, on the other hand, emphasised that “the Security Council does not act only when parties ask it to act. The whole point of having the Security Council is that it can step into a situation and make its own decisions”.

On 26 February, German foreign minister Heiko Maas and Salamé briefed Council members in consultations on the first meeting of the IFC.

Human Rights-Related Developments

On 18 March, during its 43rd session, the Human Rights Council is expected to hold an interactive dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Libya, including on the provision of technical assistance and capacity-building to support the efforts of the GNA to prevent violations and abuses of human rights and ensure accountability for such crimes (A/HRC/43/75).

Key Issues and Options

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. 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 visit by the Libya Sanctions Committee covering the whole country could be considered.

Council Dynamics

Libya continues to be a divisive issue within the Council, as evidenced by statements made after the votes on resolutions 2509 and 2510. 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.

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.


Security Council Resolutions
12 February 2020S/RES/2510 This endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya.
11 February 2020S/RES/2509 This renewed the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 May 2021 as well as the measures related to the illicit export from or illicit import to Libya of petroleum until 30 April 2021.
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.
Secretary-General’s Reports
15 January 2020S/2020/41 This was the latest report on UNSMIL.
Security Council Meeting Records
12 February 2020S/PV.8722 This was the adoption of resolution 2510.
11 February 2020S/PV.8719 This was the adoption of resolution 2509.
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.