What's In Blue

Posted Tue 16 Jan 2018

Libya: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (17 January), the Security Council is expected to receive a briefing on Libya from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ghassan Salamé, through video-teleconference. Irina Schoulgin Nyoni, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Sweden, will also brief the Council on the work of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee. These briefings will be followed by consultations.

Salamé is expected to discuss progress in implementing the UN Action Plan that the Council endorsed in October 2017. Some momentum was achieved in late 2017, including the organisation of two rounds of meetings in Tunisia between delegations from the Tobruk-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High Council of State. Even though convergence started to emerge on key issues (including the separation of the executive authority into a three-member Presidency Council and a ministerial cabinet), other questions remain outstanding, including the process for the selection of senior officials, and no further rounds of negotiations have been held since then.

Salamé will also brief the Council on several high-level meetings last week during Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman’s visit to Libya. It seems that one of the issues emphasised by Libyan stakeholders was the importance of holding elections to address the current institutional crisis. While the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections constitutes a key element of the Action Plan, Council members may be interested in the prerequisites needed to ensure their success, including a commitment by the parties to accept the results and the need for appropriate legislative, security and logistical measures to be in place. Progress on other elements of the Action Plan (finalising a constitution and organising a national conference) may also be discussed, particularly following the holding of several town hall meetings across Libya by Salamé. Even though the Action Plan is expected to be completed this year, attempts to impose deadlines have not helped the political process move forward in the past, and Salamé may stress the need for flexibility and patience in order to build a sustainable political settlement.

An issue that Council members may want to discuss with Salamé is the impact of the 14 December 2017 presidential statement on dynamics on the ground. The statement was intended to discourage any action by Khalifa Haftar, the head of the so-called Libyan National Army, who had repeatedly threatened a military offensive if the LPA was not successfully implemented by 17 December 2017 (i.e., within a perceived two-year deadline). The statement emphasised “the continuity of the LPA throughout Libya’s transitional period and reject[ed] incorrect deadlines that only serve to undermine the UN-facilitated political process”. Recalling resolution 2259 adopted soon after the signing of the LPA, it also stressed “that any attempt, including by Libyan parties, to undermine the Libyan-led, UN-facilitated political process is unacceptable”. Despite the unanimous Council action, Haftar has continued to question the validity of the LPA and the institutions it established, including the Government of National Accord. Council members may want to ask Salamé about his assessment of the situation since December and the risk of military escalation.

Salamé is further expected to brief Council members on the presence of UNSMIL in Tripoli, three and a half years since its evacuation. A Nepalese guard unit that is now fully operational is expected to protect the mission staff deployed in Libya. The situation in the capital continues to be fragile. Clashes near the Mitiga airport in Tripoli yesterday resulted in the suspension of all its flights and the death of some 20 people.

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