Expected Council Action
In April, the Security Council is expected to renew the measures related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya, which are due to expire on 30 April, and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, which 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 2491 (to inspect vessels suspected of being used for migrant smuggling or human trafficking) expires on 3 October. The mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) 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. The 8 March final report of the Panel of Experts calls the arms embargo “totally ineffective”, and describes its violations by the foreign backers as “extensive, blatant and with complete disregard for the sanctions measures”. On the travel ban and assets freeze, the report notes that implementation of the measures also continues to be ineffective.
Regarding the illicit export of petroleum from Libya, the panel reports that authorities in the east of the country continue to smuggle fuel overland “at a small scale”. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought efforts to illicitly export petroleum by sea to a temporary halt. According to the report, authorities in the east also continue to try to import aviation fuel.
On the presence of foreign fighters, the panel reports that armed groups from Chad and Sudan, fighting for the LAAF, continue to be active in the country’s conflict. Between 4,000 and 13,000 fighters from Syria are supporting either the GNA or the LAAF. The panel established that on 22 January 2020 a United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based company deployed 267 Sudanese recruits to Libya, where the LAAF assigned them to protect the Ras Lanuf oil terminal. The recruits protested and were withdrawn after six days. Also identified as being in Libya were 800 to 1,200 fighters employed by the Wagner Group, a Russian private military company. The Kremlin denies any connection to the company.
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 agreement. The 5+5 JMC also expressed its intention to set up a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the agreement. In its final report, the Panel of Experts called the parties’ commitment to the implementation of the agreement “questionable”. The agreement further stipulated 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 called 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 Council has received a Secretary-General’s report on the work of the advance team that was deployed to Libya on 3 March in support of the envisioned establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism under the umbrella of UNSMIL. The report describes the proposed mechanism in more detail as well as the tasks, areas of operation, security arrangements, logistical considerations, and prerequisites for the deployment of monitors provided by UNSMIL.
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. The roadmap 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 consists of a three-member Presidency Council, in addition to a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. In a 21 January letter to the Council, Fayez al-Serraj, then 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, as a result of which Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was elected prime minister-designate and Mohammad Younes Menfi was elected president of the Presidency Council. The Council welcomed this step in a 16 February presidential statement. On 5 March, Dbeibah submitted his proposed cabinet for a vote of confidence by the House of Representatives, which approved the cabinet on 10 March. This was welcomed by the Secretary-General the same day and by the Council in a presidential statement on 12 March. On 15 March, the new Government of National Unity (GNU) was sworn in.
The new Special Envoy to Libya and head of UNSMIL, Ján Kubiš, gave his first briefing in this capacity on 24 March.
On 25 March, Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, for whom the ICC had issued two arrest warrants for alleged war crimes, was shot dead in Benghazi by unidentified perpetrators.
Key Issues and Options
The immediate issue for the Council is to adopt a resolution renewing the sanctions related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya and the mandate of the Panel of Experts (the arms embargo, assets freeze and travel ban measures are open-ended and do not have to be renewed).
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, based on the information conveyed to Council members in the Secretary-General’s report. Another option is for the Council to consider the GNA’s request for electoral support with election observers.
Council and Wider Dynamics
The Council’s 12 March presidential statement reiterates its call for states to comply with the arms embargo and to support the ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of 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 been unable to agree on the chair’s statement. (Sanctions committee decisions and statements require consensus.) Ahead of the bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL in November 2020, 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. Similar dynamics played out ahead of the 24 March briefing.
Russia abstained during the adoption of resolution 2509 of 11 February 2020—the previous resolution renewing the sanctions related to the illicit export of petroleum from Libya and the mandate of the Panel of Experts—questioning in its explanation of vote the relevance of new language that had been included in the resolution on the illicit import of petroleum.
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.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|30 March 2021S/2021/229||This is the final report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1973.|
|Security Council Letters|
|21 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.|