What's In Blue

Posted Fri 6 Jun 2014

Long-awaited Briefing and Consultations on Libya

On Monday morning (9 June), the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing by Tarek Mitri, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), followed by consultations. The Council will also receive the periodic briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana (Rwanda), and hold consultations on Libya sanctions. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi (Libya) is also expected to participate in the briefing.

In the last three weeks, the Council has not met or issued any statement on Libya, even though the security situation is critical and political instability has worsened. On 16 May, General Khalifa Haftar launched a military operation in Benghazi targeting Islamist militias, which resulted in at least 70 dead. Haftar, who had attempted an unsuccessful coup on 14 February, framed the operation in response to the recent wave of assassinations and attacks targeting army and police personnel in Benghazi. He has since continued challenging state institutions in Libya, with forces loyal to him storming the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli on 18 May.

Some Council members have raised in private the oddity that the Council has not met to react to the recent developments, however, neither the Secretariat nor Council members have requested that a briefing be held on Libya. The silence of the Council contrasts with the recent appointment of Special Envoys to Libya by international actors such as France, Turkey, the UK, the US, the Arab League and the EU. During Monday’s discussion, Council members might be interested in asking Mitri about the impact of the proliferation of envoys and the coordination of his good offices with diplomatic efforts by these third parties to bring about a political settlement to the current crisis.

There is also likely to be discussion in Monday’s briefing and consultations on recent efforts to establish a political dialogue conference in Libya. On 16 May, Council members met informally with Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, and the possibility of organising a conference among some forty Libyan political leaders under the auspices of UNSMIL was initially discussed. Then, on 5 June, Mitri announced that a political dialogue initiative involving various influential Libyan actors would take place in two weeks and would focus on a declaration of principles binding on all parties. Council members might inquire about the timing for this conference, its participants and the kind of principles Mitri is expecting to reach an agreement on. Also, as elections for a new House of Representatives are scheduled for 25 June, Council members might inquire about the prospect for these elections to be successful in the context of the current instability.

Council members may also ask for greater clarity from Mitri on the current institutional crisis in Libya regarding the election of a new prime minister. On 4 May, Ahmed Maiteeq was elected prime minister by the GNC, which approved his cabinet on 25 May. However, his victory has been contested by Abdullah al-Thinni, who was mandated to serve as interim prime minister after the previous prime minister, Ali Zeidan, was sacked by the GNC on 11 March. Al-Thinni, who announced his resignation after an attack on his family on 13 April, has questioned the legality of the procedure that elected Maiteeq, along with other political leaders in Libya. (Some have argued there was no quorum in the 4 May vote by the GNC which elected him.) A Supreme Court decision over the legality of Maiteeq’s election is expected on 9 June.

In his briefing to the Council, Ambassador Gasana is expected to provide an update on the two meetings the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee has held since his last briefing to the Council. One meeting with Ambassador Dabbashi focused on the need for centralised oversight of military procurement, and a separate meeting was held with the members of the newly appointed Panel of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee. Some Council members might also highlight the danger of on-going arms shipments to different sides in the current crisis during the discussion.

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