Expected Council Action
In May, the Security Council will hold a briefing, followed by consultations, on the situation in Libya. As the Secretary-General has yet to appoint a Special Envoy, a representative of the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs may brief the Council. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India), is also scheduled to brief on the committee’s activities.
Key Recent Developments
The stand-off to determine Libya’s leadership has continued. The clash is between the incumbent prime minister, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU) by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies, which was responsible for charting the way towards elections—and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was elected interim prime minister by the House of Representatives on 10 February. This represents a broader institutional power struggle between the authority of the Tripoli-based GNU and the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, which was established following the 2014 parliamentary elections and is aligned with General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar stepped down from his position as General of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army, or LNA) to run in the presidential elections, which were scheduled for 24 December 2021, but are now postponed indefinitely. The House of Representatives based their appointment of Bashagha, and his mandate to form a new government, on the GNU’s failure to hold elections as planned.
On 21 April, the Bashagha-led cabinet sworn in by the House of Representatives held its first meeting in the southern city of Sabha, reportedly to discuss his cabinet’s work plan, the public budget, and the recent closure of many Libyan oil fields and ports by protesters who reportedly demanded that Dbeibah step down and hand over power to Bashagha. Bashagha has not been able to establish his government in Tripoli, despite several attempts to move there and visits to neighbouring countries to secure support for his political programme, as Dbeibah continues to proclaim the validity of his mandate and his intention to hand over power only to a government elected by the Libyan people.
UN Special Advisor on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams initiated a dialogue forum to accelerate holding Libya’s long-delayed elections and promote dialogue between the rival political factions, which have put forward competing electoral roadmaps. Participating were members of the High Council of State (the executive institution and constitutional authority established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement that is mandated to propose policies and recommendations on various political issues) and of the House of Representatives. The dialogue forum—hosted in Cairo—took place from 13 to 18 April. Participants intended to agree on a consensual constitutional framework to hold national elections as soon as possible and within mutually agreed timelines. As the week of talks ended without an agreement, Williams released a statement announcing that the joint committee would reconvene after the Eid al-Fitr holiday to continue its consultations.
The deepening rift in Libyan politics has severely affected the country’s oil production. Repeated waves of protesters, demanding the handover of government affairs from Dbeibah to Bashagha, entered oilfield production sites and ports vital to the oil industry, prevented access by workers, and caused a shutdown in production and exports. The protests, followed by violent clashes, started on 16 April and caused Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) to declare “force majeure” at several of Libya’s oilfields. Force majeure in this context indicates that the NOC is unable to meet its contractual obligations to deliver oil to the international market. The corporation also warned of its impending inability to service the local market, and in a 22 April press release, cautioned that the shutdown of production at the coastal city of Sirte “will have implications for the stability of the public electricity network, especially in the eastern regions”.
Representatives of the GNU and the House of Representatives have since engaged with protesters to end the blockade and resume oil production. The shutdown followed a March dip in oil production and is said to have had a negative impact on Libya’s ability to bridge global supply gaps and capitalise on the current price spike in the global energy market.
The political crisis also reverberated within the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC)—which consists of five representatives each from the former Government of National Accord (GNA) and from the LNA and is entrusted with overseeing the implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement. On 9 April, JMC members associated with former LAAF General Khalifa Haftar reportedly announced they were halting engagement with their counterparts to press for a handover of power from Dbeibah to Bashagha.
In this regard, they called for the suspension or reversal of several confidence-building measures—agreed to and since implemented under the umbrella of the ceasefire agreement.
As the political situation in Libya grows more complex, the search continues for a Special Envoy—and subsequently a Special Representative—to lead the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Key Issues and Options
Concerns about Libya’s security situation are mounting. The ceasefire continues to hold, but there is a build-up of armed forces supporting both political factions in Tripoli and other locations. How to reinstate the functionality of the JMC and prevent a return to civil war is a key issue for Council members and the wider international community.
Another key issue is whether instability in Libya may further accelerate migration from and through Libya, mainly towards Europe, and the flow of arms and fighters across north Africa.
Another key concern for several Council members is how Libya can take advantage of its oil wealth in a fair and transparent manner and help ease the strained global availability of oil and natural gas because of the war in Ukraine.
During the upcoming meeting, Council members could consider adopting a presidential statement to send a united message of support to the ongoing UN mediation efforts and reaffirm support to Libya on its path towards elections. Council members could also express support for the efforts of the Secretary-General in finding a suitable candidate to take over UNSMIL’s leadership.
Council dynamics on Libya have been difficult. On 29 April, the Council adopted resolution 2629, renewing UNSMIL’s mandate for three months, until 31 July. Although the vote was unanimous, the negotiations were contentious, as Council members’ views diverged regarding the duration of the mandate (the UK, penholder on Libya, had suggested a twelve-months renewal) and the frequency of the Secretary-General’s reporting to the Council.
Prior to the 29 April adoption, the Council had renewed UNSMIL’s mandate three times since September 2021 through short-term technical rollovers because of disagreements among Council members concerning the length of the mandate, the restructuring of the mission, and language regarding the appointment of UNSMIL’s leadership. Several Council members—including France, the UK and the US—have in the past expressed support for Williams and her initiatives on the ground. Russia, on the other hand, has repeatedly called for the Secretary-General quickly to appoint a new head of UNSMIL, saying that the prospective candidate should be acceptable to Libyans, regional stakeholders and the Council. The three African members of the Council (Kenya, Gabon and Ghana) have expressed a preference for an African candidate to lead the mission.
The Council appears to remain united on the view that Libyans themselves have to decide their political fate. Only Russia has announced its support for Bashagha since his appointment, but it has also indicated that it will respect any leadership decision the Libyans may take.
UN DOCUMENTS ON LIBYA
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 January 2022S/RES/2619||This resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 30 April 2022 as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.|
|30 September 2021S/RES/2599||This resolution extended the mandate of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) until 31 January 2022. The text, which was unanimously adopted, was a technical renewal of UNSMIL’s mandate as set out in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020 and paragraph 16 of resolution 2570 of 16 April 2021.|
|15 September 2021S/RES/2595||This unanimously adopted resolution extended UNSMIL’s mandate until 30 September 2021.|
|15 September 2020S/RES/2542||This resolution renewed UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021; it was adopted with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions (China and Russia).|
|Security Council Presidential Statements|
|24 November 2021S/PRST/2021/24||This presidential statement welcomed the Paris International Conference and the Libya Stabilisation conference; expressed support for the parliamentary and presidential elections set to take place on 24 December; underlined the importance of an inclusive and consultative electoral process; and urged Libyan stakeholders to commit to accepting the election results.|
|15 July 2021S/PRST/2021/12||This presidential statement welcomed the second Berlin Conference on Libya, which was held on 23 June 2021.|
|17 January 2022S/2022/31||This report covered developments in Libya between 25 August 2021 and 17 January 2022.|
|Security Council Letters|
|17 November 2021s/2021/958||This was a letter submitted to the Council by Germany, France, Italy and Libya transmitting the declaration of the 12 November 2021 Paris Conference on Libya.|
|6 August 2021S/2021/716||This was the letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the strategic review of UNSMIL.|