Expected Council Action
In July, the Security Council is expected to convene a ministerial-level meeting to discuss the situation in Libya and the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL). As France is the Security Council President for July, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, will chair the meeting. Usually during the periodic session on Libya, the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ján Kubiš, briefs, but because of the high-level nature of the meeting, Secretary-General António Guterres or Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo are expected to brief. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti, the Permanent Representative of India, may also present the committee’s report on its activities during the past 60 days.
Key Recent Developments
Since the Council’s last meeting on Libya on 21 May, international attention to the country has remained high in relation to the Libyan peace process. On 23 June, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and the Secretary-General convened states and regional organisations that participated in the Berlin Process last year, including several Council members, for the second Berlin Conference (Berlin II). Since the first conference in January 2020, Libya has achieved several milestones towards consolidating peace and stability, including the signing of a ceasefire agreement on 23 October 2020 and the formation on 15 March of the transitional “Government of National Unity” (GNU), which is supposed to steer the country towards universal elections on 24 December. UNSMIL is supporting efforts to clarify the constitutional basis for the elections—a prerequisite paving the way for voting in December—and to that end is hosting another round of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies.
On 20 June, the GNU announced the opening of a main coastal road as required by the ceasefire agreement. A series of workshops on national reconciliation that started on 31 May, organised and led by Presidency Council members Musa Al-Koni and Abdullah Al-Lafi as representatives of the executive government, intend to heal the country’s social fabric. Confidence-building measures, including the release and exchange of prisoners, are still ongoing. In his last briefing to the Council on 21 May, Kubiš attested that the ceasefire also continues to hold.
Despite promising progress, several challenges persist. The last report of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Sanctions Committee found the arms embargo on Libya to be completely disregarded, and numerous mercenaries and foreign fighters remain in the country, despite the ceasefire agreement calling for their departure. Migration also remains a serious challenge. On 28 May, UNHCR called for the release of some 5,097 asylum seekers and migrants detained across Libya, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that this year, 31,862 individuals have so far attempted to cross to Europe through the Central Mediterranean route (compared to 14,106 individuals in 2020).
Against this backdrop, the aim of the second Berlin Conference was to mobilise the continued support of the international community for the Libyan peace initiative through the Berlin Process mechanism. In this regard, Berlin II was focussed on three points: the holding of elections; accelerating the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries; and the unification of the country’s security forces. Unlike last year, Libya participated in this conference following the formation of a unified government. It reaffirmed its commitment to the election date of 24 December. Participants issued a comprehensive communiqué detailing the conference conclusions, which included, among others, the following major points (the outcome document will be submitted to the Security Council):
- request for the immediate departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries—to which Turkey registered reservations;
- the need for the House of Representatives to approve a national budget;
- the call for swift unification of government institutions;
- the need for security sector reform with a credible, verifiable and comprehensive process of demobilisation and disarmament of armed groups and militias in Libya and the integration of suitable personnel into civilian, security and military state institutions;
- a call on the LPDF to take steps to facilitate the elections if necessary and in accordance with the LPDF-agreed Roadmap.
Sustained international attention to Libya and the impact of its peace process on the wider region were also evident during an Arria-formula meeting held on 18 June under the theme “Addressing the Impact on the Sahel Region of the Departure of Foreign Fighters and Mercenaries from Libya”. The meeting was co-hosted by the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and co-sponsored by Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Libya, Norway, Sudan, and the AU. To prevent returning fighters from becoming a destabilising factor in the Sahel, several participants called for a “managed” approach for effective disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) in Libya and for increased regional cooperation paired with international support for tailored national DDR approaches across the Sahel region.
On 3 June, the Council unanimously adopted resolution 2578, extending the authorisations 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 Libya, that they have reasonable grounds to believe are violating the arms embargo. Acting under this authorisation, the EU launched operation EUNAVFOR IRINI on 31 March 2020, with the aim of supporting the arms embargo and the Libyan peace process.
Key Issues and Options
Six months ahead of elections, the July Council meeting is likely to focus on steps that need to be taken to maintain the space necessary for electoral preparations to advance, including a constitutional referendum and the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement. Council members will have had the time to digest the outcome documents of Berlin II as well as of the G7 and NATO summits (held on 11-13 June and 14 June, respectively), which both referenced the situation in Libya. Should the Council consider an outcome document, some members may suggest reflecting or reinforcing language from the Berlin II conclusions. The Council endorsed the conclusions of the first Berlin conference in resolution 2510 of 12 February 2020 and may consider referencing the outcome of Berlin II in future Council products. France has reportedly presented a three-phase plan to several member states, including the US, detailing steps towards the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries. This plan may, in all likelihood, be part of the discussion.
Several Council members may also use the meeting to voice their expectations for the UNSMIL mandate renewal in September. During the Arria-formula meeting on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, several participants, including the A3 plus one, suggested strengthening the DDR capacity of UNSMIL and adding a regional cooperation mechanism. Council members may also wish to hear about progress in implementing a ceasefire monitoring mechanism with UN support.
Council and Wider Dynamics
Council members have adopted the past three resolutions on Libya unanimously, including resolution 2578 of 3 June, which authorised the enforcement of the arms embargo through vessel inspections off the coast of Libya, and resolution 2570, which reiterated the Council’s position on the withdrawal of “all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay”. Nonetheless, arms embargo violations persist, and mercenaries and foreign fighters from a number of countries, including elements based in a permanent member state of the Council, remain in Libya.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|3 June 2021S/RES/2578||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.|
|16 April 2021S/RES/2571||This renewed the measures related to the illicit export from Libya of petroleum until 30 July 2022 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee until 15 August 2022.|
|16 April 2021S/RES/2570||In this resolution, the Council strongly urges member states to withdraw “all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay”.|
|5 May 2021S/2021/434||This was the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 2526.|