What's In Blue

Posted Wed 14 Jul 2021

Libya: Ministerial-level briefing*

Tomorrow (15 July), the Security Council will convene an in-person ministerial-level briefing on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and on the situation in the country. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General and head of UNSMIL Ján Kubiš will brief. The French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, will chair the meeting. In addition to Council members, Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, Chadian Foreign Minister Mahamat Zene Cherif, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, and Secretary-General of the League of Arab States Aboul Gheit are expected to participate in the meeting. Given the high level of representation in this meeting, the periodic report of the Chair of the Libya sanctions committee on its activities, traditionally delivered during the UNSMIL briefing, has been postponed.

It appears that the intention of this high-level meeting is to solidify and build upon recent gains in the Libyan peace process. These include:

  • the ceasefire agreement reached in October 2020;
  • the formation of a Government of National Unity (GNU), intended to steer the country towards presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December;
  • the continuation of confidence-building measures to heal the social fabric of the country;
  • steps towards unifying Libya’s state institutions, including the recent finalisation of an audit report covering the two branches of the Central Bank and emphasising the urgent need for their unification; and
  • the launch by the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) of the voter registration update.

The meeting is also expected to serve as a platform to rally international commitment to address several challenges that remain to the peace process. One key challenge is the lack of consensus by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies—on a constitutional basis to chart the way towards elections by 1 July. Another challenge is the lack of a unified national budget. There are thousands of foreign fighters and mercenaries still in the country, and migrants and refugees continue to flee Libya under very difficult circumstances; in this regard, IOM reported that 34,224 individuals attempted to cross to Europe through the Central Mediterranean route between 1 January and 9 July, compared to 22,577 during the same period last year.

On 23 June, German Foreign Minister Maas and UN Secretary-General António Guterres convened the member states (including several Council members) and regional organisations that had participated in the Berlin Process in 2020 in a second Berlin Conference (Berlin II). Berlin II focussed on the holding of elections, the effort to accelerate the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries, and the unification of the country’s security forces. Libya participated in the conference this year, following the formation of its unified government. Berlin II concluded with a comprehensive communiqué detailing the conference conclusions, which were submitted to the Council on 24 June (S/2021/595).

The Security Council endorsed the conclusions of the first Berlin Conference in resolution 2510 of 12 February 2020 as an “important element of a comprehensive solution to the situation in Libya”. In a similar manner, Security Council members are currently negotiating a draft presidential statement expressing support for the outcome of Berlin II.  It is unclear if this draft will be agreed upon before tomorrow’s meeting.

During tomorrow’s meeting, Council members and other participants likely intend to discuss how best to support the Libyan peace process, especially with regard to supporting the holding of elections as scheduled. In their national statements, “A3 plus one” Council members (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) may reiterate the need for a coordinated withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters, a point also likely to be emphasised by Chad. Along with several Council and non-Council member states, Chad co-sponsored an 18 June Arria-formula meeting, co-hosted by the “A3 plus one”, on: “Addressing the Impact on the Sahel Region of the Departure of Foreign Fighters and Mercenaries from Libya”. Council members may wish to hear about progress towards the establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism and how to ensure that the electoral process, and the political process more broadly, remain inclusive. They may also call for the full implementation of the arms embargo and for holding violators of international humanitarian law accountable. European Council members may reference the importance of Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI, the naval operation acting under resolution 2292 of 14 June 2016 to enforce the arms embargo off the coast of Libya; the mission reports having conducted 3,566 hailings, including 153 friendly approaches and 17 boardings, between its inception on 30 March 2020 and 5 July. With the UNSMIL mandate renewal scheduled for September, Council members may also voice their priorities regarding the mission’s future support to the Libyan peace process. During the meeting, several member states are likely to stress the need for international cooperation to further a political solution for Libya.


*Post-script: On 15 July, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement (S/PRST/2021/12) welcoming the second Berlin Conference on Libya which was held on 23 June 2021. The Council stressed the importance of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and called on the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) to take steps to facilitate the electoral process. The statement also calls for the full respect of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement, including through the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, and expresses concern regarding the impact of the conflict on neighbouring countries.

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