VTC Consultations on Libya
Tomorrow morning (15 December), Security Council members will convene videoconference (VTC) consultations on Libya. Acting Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL) Stephanie Williams will brief. Her briefing is expected to focus on progress by the Secretariat in articulating proposals for effective monitoring of the ceasefire agreement in Libya under UN auspices.
Following the Berlin conference in January, negotiations have been taking place between the Libyan parties—the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army) under General Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). These have centred on three tracks (economic, political and security), with varying levels of progress. The 5+5 Joint Military Commission—which is leading the negotiations on the security track and consists of five representatives each from the GNA and the LAAF—conducted its fourth round of talks in Geneva in October, culminating in a ceasefire agreement being signed on 23 October.
The ceasefire agreement stipulates the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces (land, sea and air) within three months from the signing of the agreement. The agreement also contains an immediate suspension of foreign military training and the departure of training personnel; issues of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed elements; and the intention to set up a mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the agreement. The signatories to the agreement further requested that UNSMIL share the agreement with the Council, and that the Council adopt a resolution supporting compliance of all national and international stakeholders with the ceasefire agreement. On 27 October, Council members issued a press statement welcoming the agreement.
In resolution 2510 of 12 February, the Council endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference and requested the Secretary-General to report on several aspects of the conclusions, including on “proposals for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the UN”. Resolution 2542 of 15 September, renewing UNSMIL’s mandate until 15 September 2021, requested the Secretary-General to submit that information “no later than 60 days after the adoption of this resolution” (that is, by 15 November). The Secretary-General requested an extension of the deadline for the submission of his report until 30 December 2020 in a 13 November letter (S/2020/1124) to the Security Council.
In his letter, the Secretary-General noted that the Libyan parties had increased their interactions since signing the ceasefire agreement and had pursued discussions on its operationalisation, including through meetings of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to advance the design of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism. The Secretary-General requested the extension to allow for the outcome of the ongoing talks among the 5+5 Joint Military Commission to inform the Secretariat’s proposals for the ceasefire monitoring mechanism. He further stated that the Secretariat had established an inter-agency Libya planning team to prepare for possible support for implementing the ceasefire monitoring mechanism and had also conducted preliminary logistical and security assessments in Sirte, where the mechanism is likely to be headquartered.
The Security Council responded positively to the Secretary-General’s request in a letter dated 18 November (S/2020/1125). At the initiative of France and Germany, which was supported by all other Council members, the Council requested an interim briefing on progress made in this regard by 7 December.
At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members may be interested to hear from Williams about progress by the Libyan parties in negotiating the terms for monitoring the ceasefire agreement, as well as the articulation of the Secretariat’s proposals for a possible monitoring mechanism under UN auspices. In the latest Council meeting on UNSMIL on 19 November, Williams noted that the 5+5 Joint Military Commission had met twice during early November to discuss the terms of the Libyan-led, UN-supported ceasefire monitoring mechanism. The mechanism is initially expected to cover an area running from Sawknah to Abu Grein and Bin Jawad, in central Libya. Council members choosing to make statements during tomorrow’s consultations may stress the importance of establishing a credible and effective monitoring mechanism.
Council members also expect to hear updates on progress on the three tracks during tomorrow’s consultations. Regarding the political track, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) held its first in-person session in Tunis between 7 and 15 November. Formed in line with the conclusions of the Berlin conference, the LPDF consists of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies; 26 of its representatives were elected by the House of Representatives (HoR) and the High Council of State (HCS) and 49 (including 16 women) were selected by UNSMIL.
On 13 November, the LPDF reached agreement, by consensus, to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya on 24 December 2021. To that end, the LPDF adopted a national roadmap that articulates objectives and deadlines for forming institutions capable of organising elections and implementing political, economic and military reforms. The objectives include the formation of a new executive authority, with a new Presidency Council and a Government of National Unity, to be led by a Prime Minister and two deputies whose main mandate will be to lead the transitional period towards elections, reunify state institutions, and provide security and basic services to the population until elections are held.
The LPDF held a second round of consultations between 23 November and 5 December to discuss selection criteria of the unified executive authorities for the preparatory period preceding the elections. Representatives of the LPDF have hitherto been unable to agree on a selection mechanism for appointees to senior positions in the new executive authority. Council members may be interested to hear from Williams on expected next steps on the political track to advance implementation of the national roadmap.
With regard to the security track, a key area of discussion during tomorrow’s meeting is likely to be the status of the ceasefire agreement’s implementation, including its provisions on the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libyan soil. In her address to the LPDF on 2 December, Williams stated that there are 20,000 foreign forces and/or mercenaries in Libya, emphasising that this constitutes a violation of the UN arms embargo on Libya and of Libyan sovereignty.
Williams and several Council members may also reiterate their call to respect the principle of non-interference in Libya’s internal affairs and to fully implement the arms embargo. The issue of mercenaries has been a sensitive one in the Council. A confidential report of the Libya Sanctions Committee’s Panel of Experts that was leaked to the press in early May said that the Russian private military company Wagner Group had deployed around 1,200 mercenaries to fight for Haftar, according to the media. The Kremlin denies ties to the Wagner Group despite accusations to the contrary by various sources. At tomorrow’s meeting, several Council members, including EU members of the Council, may call for the full withdrawal of mercenaries from Libya by the deadline stipulated in the ceasefire agreement.
At the time of writing, Council members have yet to begin negotiations on a resolution expressing the Council’s support for all national and international stakeholders to comply with the ceasefire agreement, as the agreement’s signatories have requested. It seems that Council members would like such a resolution to be informed by, among other things, the Secretariat’s proposals for ceasefire monitoring and the progress by the Libyan parties on the political track.