What's In Blue

Posted Tue 23 Mar 2021

Libya: VTC Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (24 March), Security Council members are scheduled to hold an open videoconference (VTC) briefing, followed by closed VTC consultations, on the UN Assistance Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The Special Envoy to Libya and head of UNSMIL, Ján Kubiš, will give his first briefing in this capacity. The Permanent Representative of India, Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti, might brief the Council on Libya sanctions in his role as the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee.

Kubiš is expected to update Council members on the latest developments on the political situation in Libya. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies—decided on a “political roadmap” on 15 November 2020. The roadmap states that parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on 24 December 2021. The members of the LPDF agreed on a “reformed executive authority”, which will lead a “government of national unity” until the elections are held. The reformed executive authority consists of a three-member Presidency Council, a prime minister and two deputy prime ministers. In a 21 January letter to the Council, Fayez al-Serraj, then head of the Government of Nation Accord, requested UN support for the electoral process, including election observers. Voting by the LPDF on the candidates for the reformed executive authority took place in Geneva in early February, electing Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah as prime minister-designate and Mohammad Younes Menfi as president of the Presidency Council. The Council welcomed this step in a 16 February presidential statement.

In its 8 March final report to the Council, the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee writes that during the first round of the LPDF in November 2020 “at least three participants were offered bribes to vote for a specific candidate as Prime Minister”. The report, as well as the confidential annex detailing the situation, was leaked to the press at the end of February. According to media reports, bribes between $150,000 and $200,000 were offered for commitments to vote for Dbeibah as prime minister; one LPDF member was reportedly angered upon hearing that other LPDF delegates had received more money than he had. The final report adds that the office of the Libyan Attorney General had received complaints from civil society organisations and LPDF members about the matter. In a 2 March statement, UNSMIL strongly encouraged the House of Representatives “to meet as scheduled”. The mission further stated that the Panel of Experts was “a separate entity, completely independent of UNSMIL”, reporting to the Libya Sanctions Committee.

On 5 March, Dbeibah submitted his proposed cabinet for a vote of confidence by the House of Representatives, which approved the cabinet on 10 March. This was welcomed by the Secretary-General the same day and by the Council in a presidential statement on 12 March (S/PRST/2021/6). On 15 March, the new Government of National Unity (GNU) was sworn in.

Kubiš is also expected to address the security situation in Libya. According to the final report by the Panel of Experts, foreign fighters from Chad, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Turkey remain in the country, and the arms embargo “remains totally ineffective”.

The Council has received a report (S/2021/281) by the Secretary-General on the work of the advance team that was deployed to Libya on 3 March in support of the envisioned establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism under the umbrella of UNSMIL. It seems that the report describes the proposed mechanism in more detail as well as the tasks, areas of operation, security arrangements, logistical considerations, and prerequisites for the deployment of monitors provided by UNSMIL. Council members might be interested in hearing from Kubiš on the issue as well.

Kubiš is expected to share with members his virtual and in-person engagement with Libyan and international interlocutors. Since taking up his position on 8 February, he has travelled to Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey, among others.

Council members are expected to reiterate elements of the 12 March presidential statement, including calls for the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces from Libya and compliance with the arms embargo, the need for the unification of institutions in Libya and the improvement of basic services for its people.

Briefing by the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee

Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti of India, the chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, might brief the Council on the committee’s activities over the past six months, assuming agreement can be reached by the committee on the chair’s statement. (Sanctions committee decisions and statements require consensus.) The practice is for the committee chair to brief the Council every two months, but the chair has not been able to brief the Council since September 2020 because the committee has not been able to agree on the chair’s statement since then. Ahead of the November 2020 bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL, Russia raised an objection to an assessment by the Panel of Experts that a merchant vessel had potentially violated the arms embargo by carrying jet fuel from the UAE to Benghazi in September 2020; it raised the same objection again ahead of January’s bimonthly briefing on UNSMIL. It seems that the committee is facing similar dynamics now. At the time of writing, it was not yet clear whether consensus on the chair’s statement would be found.