Briefing and Consultations on the Political Process in Libya
Tomorrow afternoon (11 December), the Security Council will be briefed by Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), followed by consultations. Ambassador Ramlan Ibrahim (Malaysia), the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, is also expected to brief. Kobler, who took office on 17 November, is expected to brief Council members on developments in the political process, and his efforts to bring about a political agreement accepted by most parties in Libya in order to pave the way for the creation of a government of national accord.
Council members will be interested in hearing about developments in the political process since Bernardino León, the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General, briefed the Council on 5 November. In that briefing, León blamed the leaderships of the House of Representatives and the General National Congress (GNC) for delaying a vote on the outcome of the dialogue process. Despite expressions of support for the text by members of both parliaments, their presidents had refused to hold votes on the text. Furthermore, on 6 December, an agreement was reached between some members of both parliaments in Tunisia on a ‘declaration of principles’ outlining a different roadmap for the political process that would substitute for the agreement proposed by UNSMIL. In an 8 December joint declaration, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the US and the EU reaffirmed their strong support for the UN-facilitated Libyan political agreement “as the only way forward to resolve Libya’s political, security and institutional crises”. They highlighted that the “declaration of principles” had been announced by a very small number of the representatives of the House of Representatives and the GNC and “no last minute attempt to derail the UN driven process will succeed.”
Keeping in mind the possibility of an agreement being signed before the end of the year, Council members might want to hear Kobler’s view on how to ensure that as many stakeholders as possible are on board. They might ask Kobler if he has any recommendations for how to handle those who refuse to sign, as well as his views on next steps once an agreement has been signed and a government of national accord established. Council members might also want to know whether Kobler is planning to incorporate further changes in the agreement to ensure the ownership of both parties.
Kobler is also expected to brief Council members on a meeting that he is facilitating today and tomorrow in Tunis with representatives from different tracks of the process, in preparation for an international summit on Libya scheduled for 13 December and convened by Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and US Secretary of State John Kerry. Even though in the past Council members have clearly supported UNSMIL’s mediation efforts, it is unclear if all Council members believe that a UN-brokered political agreement is the only prospect for resolving the conflict. In this regard, Council members might also inquire about the multiplicity of mediation initiatives, including the recent ceasefire agreement brokered by Qatar between Tuareg and Tebu tribes from southern Libya. Kobler might cover the coherence between some of these initiatives and UNSMIL’s overall mediation strategy in his briefing.
Council members are likely to raise concerns regarding the increased foothold of Al-Qaida affiliates in Libya, including facilities for training, implying a longer-term strategic goal to sustain a presence in the country with external operations capability. A 22 September report of the Monitoring Team of the 1267/1989 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee stated that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has clearly demonstrated its intention to control additional territory in Libya, given the country’s strategic location as a transit point within the region. A number of countries are prepared to provide support for fighting terrorist groups in Libya once a government of national accord is sworn in. Council members might ask Kobler for his views on how to tackle the imminent terrorist threat in Libya without undermining the prospects for a political settlement, and how to address this threat once the government of national accord is established.
Council members might also be interested in UNSMIL’s reporting on human rights violations, particularly a 16 November report released by the mission and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The report established that all parties in Libya’s conflict are committing breaches of international law that may amount to war crimes, including abductions, torture and killing of civilians.
The failure to generate greater buy-in for the political agreement—even if it is signed by parliamentarians from both sides—and the mounting pressure to address the terrorism threat and its impact in the region may prompt some members to suggest the need to reevaluate the Council’s engagement with the political process in Libya.