Libya: Briefing and Consultations on UNSMIL and Libya Sanctions
Tomorrow (29 January), the Security Council is expected to hold the bimonthly briefing and consultations on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and Libya sanctions. Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Ghassan Salamé is expected to brief via video-teleconference. The Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany, Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, will brief the Council on Libya sanctions in his capacity as chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee. At the time of writing, Council members were negotiating a resolution endorsing the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya.
Libya’s capital, Tripoli, has been the scene of fighting for over nine months, starting on 4 April 2019 when General Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive towards Tripoli and against the internationally recognised and UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based there. Libya does not have professional security forces, and the GNA currently relies on armed groups for its security. In his 15 January report on UNSMIL (S/2020/41), the Secretary-General described Libya as having “endured a downward spiral of conflict”. The report further says that since Haftar’s assault, 140,000 people have fled Tripoli, 284 civilians have been killed, and 363 have been injured.
The proxy dimension of the Libyan conflict continues to intensify, in breach of UN sanctions. Reportedly, Turkey and Qatar support the GNA militarily while Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates provide military support to the LNA; different Chadian and Sudanese armed groups support both sides, and mercenaries of the private but reportedly Kremlin-affiliated Russian military company Wagner Group are also involved on the ground in support of the LNA. The 15 January report of the Secretary-General says that “the dangers and direct consequences of foreign interference are increasingly evident. To increase the number of fighters, there has been growing involvement of mercenaries. The presence of such professional fighters has been linked to an escalation in violence”.
On 8 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for a ceasefire in Libya starting on 12 January. An attempt to have both the head of the GNA, Fayez Al-Serraj, and Haftar sign a ceasefire agreement in Moscow failed, with Haftar leaving Moscow without signing.
In the context of an increasingly complex situation, the Council has held several meetings on Libya in recent weeks. Council members met in consultations on Libya on 6 January and 21 January. They adopted press elements at both meetings. On 28 January, Council members met again on Libya under “Any Other Business”.
Tomorrow Council members, including those that participated in the Berlin Conference on Libya, are expected to express their continued support for the work of Salamé and show concern over ongoing violations of the truce and the arms embargo. The conference is likely to be a key focus of the discussion. At Berlin, high-level representatives from Algeria, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the Republic of the Congo, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, and the US, and High Representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union, and the League of Arab States, adopted conclusions on 19 January on six areas (“baskets”) related to the conflict in Libya. The six baskets are political, economic and financial, security, arms embargo, international humanitarian law, and international human rights law matters. With these conclusions, the participants committed to refraining from “interference in the armed conflict or in the internal affairs of Libya” and urged all international actors to do the same. They further called upon the United Nations “to facilitate ceasefire negotiations between the parties, including through the immediate establishment of technical committees to monitor and verify the implementation of the ceasefire”.
The participants also called on the Council to impose “appropriate sanctions on those who are found to be in violation of the ceasefire arrangements and on Member States to enforce these”. Regarding the arms embargo, participants committed themselves “to unequivocally and fully respect and implement the arms embargo” established by the Council and called “on all international actors to do the same”. On 25 January, UNSMIL issued a press release deeply regretting “the continued blatant violations of the arms embargo in Libya, even after the commitments made in this regard by concerned countries during the International Conference on Libya in Berlin.”
The participants further agreed to establish an International Follow-Up Committee to coordinate efforts to implement the conclusions. Serraj and Haftar were both in Berlin but not formally part of the conference. Shortly before the conference, forces allied with the LNA effectively shut down nearly all of Libya’s oil fields and terminals, leading to massive revenue loss for the Libyan state.
UNSMIL began to work on the six baskets before the conference. Serraj and Haftar have each nominated five representatives for the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (part of the “security” basket). Its first meeting was anticipated for today, 28 January.
In July 2019, Salamé proposed three steps to end the conflict: a truce, a high-level conference of “concerned countries”, and a “Libyan meeting of leading and influential personalities from all over the country”. The current truce continues to be violated by both sides to the conflict. The Berlin Conference on Libya represented the second step proposed by Salamé. He is expected to focus his remarks tomorrow on the latest report of the Secretary-General on UNSMIL and the latest developments following the publication of the report in mid-January. Council members might be interested in hearing about the progress made by Salamé in his proposed three steps and in implementing the six baskets of the Berlin conference conclusions.