What's In Blue

Posted Wed 6 Apr 2016

Consultations on the Establishment of a Government of National Accord in Tripoli, Libya

Tomorrow (7 April), Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Martin Kobler will brief Council members in consultations by video teleconference on the recent developments regarding the establishment of a Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, Libya.

The briefing follows the arrival (after previous attempts had been frustrated) of seven of the nine members of the Presidency Council of the GNA in Tripoli on 30 March. After a draft press statement was circulated by the UK welcoming the arrival (which was subsequently issued by members on 1 April), Russia requested a briefing from Kobler to seek more clarity on the Presidency Council’s plans to establish the GNA in Tripoli.

Two rival governments, based in Tripoli and Tobruk respectively, have vied for power since 2014. On 5 April, one of these governments, the Tripoli-based so-called National Salvation Government, reportedly stepped down and declared its intention to hand over power to the GNA, although its head Khalifa Ghweil issued a statement today (6 April) refusing to cede power. A spokesperson for the other government, based in Tobruk and regarded by some as the internationally-recognised government until late last year, qualified the Presidency Council’s arrival as “premature” and said that Libyans will not accept anything imposed on them by force. Council members are likely to ask Kobler for his analysis of the current base of support for the GNA, following his visit to Tripoli earlier this week, and the prospects for a peaceful power handover and a prompt resumption of work of the service ministries.

The need to broaden the base of support for the Agreement is expected to feature prominently in the discussions. Members of the Tripoli-based General National Congress (GNC) are divided over whether to dissolve and pledge allegiance to the GNA. Today, the first meeting of the State Council (a consultative institution provided for by the Libyan Political Agreement in which most GNC members are expected to participate) took place in Tripoli. Several militias have also declared allegiance to the GNA. Furthermore, since its arrival in Tripoli, the Presidency Council has secured the support of key institutions such as the Libyan Investment Authority, the National Oil Corporation, and the Central Bank.

Council members will be interested in Kobler’s assessment as to whether an endorsement of the GNA by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (as called for by the Agreement) is expected in the next few days. On 25 January, the House endorsed the Agreement in principle; however, it expressed reservations regarding the transfer of military power, with some representatives concerned about the role that General Khalifa Haftar (the military leader of Operation Dignity in eastern Libya) will be able to play in Libya once a GNA is sworn in. The Agreement lays out the process for the House to endorse the GNA proposed by the Presidency Council; however, no action has been taken to endorse the list of GNA candidates submitted on 15 February.

Some Council members emphasise the importance of a formal endorsement of the GNA by the House as per the Agreement. However, other Council members are already interacting with the Presidency Council of the GNA as the legitimate government of Libya. This dynamic has been reflected recently in the negotiations on resolution 2278 of 31 March and on a 1 April press statement. In the case of the latter, a reference threatening with sanctions those obstructing the successful completion of the political transition was dropped to get unanimity on the draft. (In resolution 2259, of 23 December 2015, the Council called on member states to cease support to, and having official contact with, parallel institutions outside of the Agreement.)

Security issues will probably be an important part of the discussion. Council members might be interested in the work of the Temporary Security Committee, established by the Presidency Council on 13 January, in formulating a security plan to enable the GNA to establish itself in Tripoli. Some Council members might also be interested in the role of member states in providing assistance to Libya in order to finalise the interim security arrangements outlined by the Agreement. At this point, it is unclear if consensus exists among Council members on the kind of international engagement (if any) the Council should support to stabilise Libya in the face of terrorist groups, such as ISIL.

There may be efforts to address the future role of UNSMIL. Council members might ask Kobler how UNSMIL is planning to support the Presidency Council and the GNA in establishing themselves in Tripoli. There may also be discussion of the steps needed for the mission to return to Tripoli. A UN needs assessment mission deployed in January to evaluate the feasibility of UNSMIL’s return to Libya concluded that such a move was contingent upon the establishment of the GNA in Tripoli and authorisation to deploy a UN guard unit.

Despite the fact that Council members adopted resolution 2278 last week renewing the mandate of the panel of experts of the 1970 Sanctions Committee, no discussion was held at the time regarding possible designations of the thirteen names listed in a confidential annex to the panel’s final report. On 31 March, the EU imposed sanctions on Agilah Saleh (head of the House), Khalifa Ghweil (head of the Tripoli-based National Salvation Government) and Nouri Abu Sahmain, (head of the GNC). Some members may request Kobler’s view on the impact of the EU-imposed sanctions on the political process.

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