March 2021 Monthly Forecast

Posted 26 February 2021
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AFRICA

Libya

Expected Council Action

In March, the Security Council is expected to receive briefings by the Special Envoy to Libya and head of the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL), Ján Kubiš, and the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti, the Permanent Representative of India. The Council may also receive a report by the Secretary-General on the work of the advance team that will be deployed to Libya in support of the envisioned establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism under the umbrella of UNSMIL.

Sanctions related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya expire on 30 April, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee expires on 15 May. The authorisation given through resolution 2526 (to inspect vessels believed to be in violation of the arms embargo) expires on 5 June and the authorisation given through resolution 2546 (to inspect vessels suspected of being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking) expires on 3 October. UNSMIL’s mandate expires on 15 September.

Key Recent Developments

A 14-month-long assault by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army) under General Khalifa Haftar against Libya’s capital, Tripoli, and the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based there was halted by armed groups supporting the GNA in June 2020. Both the LAAF and the GNA receive foreign military backing in violation of UN sanctions. Turkey’s support for the GNA eventually turned the conflict in its favour. In her 28 January briefing to the Council, then-Acting Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Stephanie Williams said that “blatant foreign interference continues” in Libya.

The final report by the Panel of Experts—expected to be published in March—was leaked to the press in mid-February. The panel reportedly describes the involvement of Erik Prince, the founder of the private military company Blackwater Worldwide, on the side of the LAAF. Prince has denied the reports.

A leaked confidential report by the Panel of Experts in May 2020 said that the Russian private military company Wagner Group had deployed around 1,200 mercenaries to fight for the LAAF, according to media reports. The Kremlin denies ties to the Wagner Group despite accusations to the contrary by various sources.

The 13 January final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee addresses the involvement of Darfuri rebel groups in the Libyan conflict on the side of the LAAF. It further lays out the engagement of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—reportedly among the military supporters of the LAAF—with those groups.

On 23 October 2020, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (5+5 JMC)—consisting of five representatives each from the LAAF and the GNA—signed a permanent ceasefire agreement, including a request for the Council to adopt a resolution supporting compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the ceasefire agreement. The 5+5 JMC also expressed its intention to set up a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the agreement. On 27 October 2020, Council members issued a press statement welcoming the ceasefire agreement.

The agreement further stipulates that within three months from the day it was signed, “all military units and armed groups shall clear all confrontation lines and return to their camps”. In addition, it calls for the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces (land, sea and air) within the three-month period. That deadline passed on 23 January without the implementation of those provisions.

The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies—decided on a “political roadmap” on 15 November 2020. It states that parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on 24 December 2021. The members of the LPDF agreed on a “reformed executive authority”, which will lead a “government of national unity” until the elections are held. The reformed executive authority will consist of a three-member Presidency Council, a prime minister, and two deputy prime ministers. In a 21 January letter to the Council, Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the GNA, requested UN support for the electoral process, including election observers. Voting by the LPDF on the candidates for the reformed executive authority took place in Geneva in early February, electing Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah as prime minister-designate and Mohammad Younes Menfi as president of the Presidency Council. The Council welcomed this step in a 16 February presidential statement. The House of Representatives has yet to pass a vote of confidence on this interim government.

On 2 March 2020, Ghassan Salamé, then-Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, announced his resignation, citing stress-related health reasons. Resolution 2542, adopted on 15 September 2020, split the role of Special Representative into a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and an UNSMIL Coordinator, following pressure by the US. On 16 December, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Raisedon Zenenga as UNSMIL Coordinator. Following a difficult selection process, Council members agreed on the appointment of Ján Kubiš as Special Envoy to Libya and head of UNSMIL on 18 January. Kubiš took up his position on 8 February.

Key Issues and Options

The conflict in Libya and related non-compliance with the arms embargo by multiple international actors have been ongoing issues for the Council. One option for the Council is to follow up on the request contained in the ceasefire agreement to adopt a resolution supporting compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement between the Libyan conflict parties. Another option is for the Council to consider the GNA’s request for electoral support through election observers.

Council and Wider Dynamics

The Council’s 16 February presidential statement reiterates its call for states to comply with the arms embargo and to withdraw mercenaries and foreign forces from Libya, but some countries, including members of the Council, fail to respect this. All foreign sponsors but Turkey deny their role in Libya.

Divisions remain between Council members on Libya. The chair of the Libya Sanctions Committee was last able to brief the Council in September. Since then, the committee has not been able to agree on the chair’s statement. (Sanctions committee decisions and statements require consensus.) Ahead of November’s bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL, Russia raised an objection to an assessment by the Panel of Experts that a merchant vessel had potentially violated the arms embargo by carrying jet fuel from the UAE to Benghazi in September 2020; it raised the same objection again ahead of January’s bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL.

The UK is the penholder on Libya. T. S. Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative, chairs the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA

Security Council Resolutions
2 October 2020S/RES/2546 This renewed for 12 months 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.
15 September 2020S/RES/2542 This extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021; it was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).
5 June 2020S/RES/2526 This resolution renewed for 12 months 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.
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 Libya of petroleum until 30 April 2021.
Security Council Presidential Statements
16 February 2021S/PRST/2021/4 This welcomed the election of the interim executive authority.
Sanctions Committee Documents
13 January 2021S/2021/40 This letter transmitted the final report of the Panel of Experts, which was considered by the 1591 Sudan Sanctions Committee.
Security Council Letters
4 February 2021S/2021/110 This was from the president of the Security Council to the Secretary-General, conveying a request for the establishment and deployment of an advance team to be deployed to Libya in support of the envisioned establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism under the umbrella of UNSMIL, and to report back on the team’s work 45 days from the date of the letter at the latest.
22 January 2021S/2021/70 This was from the Permanent Representative of Libya, containing a letter from the head of the GNA, Faiez Serraj, requesting UN support for the electoral process.
18 January 2021S/2021/59 This was from the president of the Security Council to the Secretary-General, taking note of the Secretary-General’s intention to appoint Ján Kubiš as Special Envoy to Libya and head of UNSMIL.
18 January 2021S/2021/58 This was from the Secretary-General, informing the president of the Security Council of his intention to appoint Ján Kubiš as Special Envoy to Libya and head of UNSMIL.