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Libya: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (10 September), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Libya. Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ján Kubiš will brief. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti (India), is expected to present the periodic report on the committee’s activities. A woman civil society representative will also brief the Council.

Kubiš is expected to provide an overview of developments in the peace process, including on the implementation of the 23 October 2020 ceasefire agreement and preparations for the elections set to take place on 24 December, in accordance with the political roadmap which was adopted in November 2020 by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). (The LPDF is an assembly of 75 participants responsible for identifying a constitutional basis for the elections.) He may note that the parties to the conflict made some progress in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement through the 5+5 Joint Military Commission—which comprises of five representatives each from the former Government of National Accord (GNA) and from the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army, or LNA)—  including by reopening the coastal road connecting the cities of Misrata and Sirte on 30 July and by carrying out confidence-building measures such as the exchange of detainees. However, he is likely to emphasise that several other issues remain unaddressed.

The withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries, who are reportedly still active in the country, remains a pressing concern. The Secretary-General’s latest report on Libya, which was issued on 25 August and covers developments in the country since his 11 May report, notes that foreign elements continue to operate throughout the country with no discernible abatement in their activities, while foreign logistical and material support also continues to flow into the country. The report proposes the elaboration of a “comprehensive plan for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all mercenaries and foreign forces from Libya, with clear timelines”. According to media reports in June, France has apparently discussed such an initiative with the US, with the aim of proposing a plan for the coordinated withdrawal of Turkey-backed Syrian mercenaries and elements of the Russia-affiliated Wagner Group reportedly operating in the country. Several Council members, including the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) and Viet Nam, have been calling for a coordinated and systematic regional approach to the withdrawal of foreign fighters, to avoid the destabilising effects of their departure on the region. They may repeat this call during tomorrow’s meeting.

Another likely area of discussion is the operationalisation of the ceasefire monitoring mechanism which was stipulated in the October 2020 ceasefire agreement. In resolution 2570 of 16 April, the Council requested UNSMIL to provide support to a “Libyan-led and Libyan-owned ceasefire monitoring mechanism (LCMM), including through the facilitation of confidence-building measures and the scalable and incremental deployment of UNSMIL ceasefire monitors once conditions allow”. Planning for UN support to the mechanism is underway, and in his recent report, the Secretary-General says that funding for the first phase of deployment of monitors was confirmed on 13 August. The report further notes that the 5+5 Joint Military Commission has already deployed local ceasefire monitors on 15 August. Council members may want to hear more on the status of the deployment of UN monitors and call for swift support to the monitoring efforts. Preserving and promoting the gains made on the security track is a key interest for the Council. Some members, including India, may voice their concern over the continued presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or Da’esh) and other terrorist organisations in the country.

Council members are also likely to be interested in Kubiš’ views on how best to support Libya’s electoral preparations. Resolution 2570 calls on “relevant authorities and institutions […] to clarify the constitutional basis for elections and the enactment of legislation, as necessary, by 1 July 2021 in order to allow the High National Elections Commission adequate time to prepare for elections according to the prescribed timeline”. To date, no agreement has been reached on defining the constitutional basis for elections. The LPDF was presented with four proposals on the matter on 11 August, but numerous members of the forum apparently voiced apprehensions about voting on them at that stage. Speaking on the sidelines of a consultative meeting of foreign ministers of Libya’s neighbouring states hosted by Algeria on 30-31 August, Foreign Minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU) Najla al-Mangoush was quoted in media reports as saying: “I cannot answer whether the elections will be postponed or not, but we are trying to ensure they will be held on the scheduled date.”

Council members are united in their call for the holding of free, fair and credible elections in December. They may wish to learn more from Kubiš about UNSMIL’s efforts to build consensus on the proposals for a constitutional basis for the elections. Some Council members may also emphasise the need to facilitate the full, equal and meaningful participation of women at all levels of the electoral process.

At tomorrow’s meeting, some Council members may reference the need to improve the human rights situation and facilitate the protection of civilians in the country. On 6 August, the Council received the Secretary-General’s report on UNSMIL’s strategic review, which noted that the crisis in Libya “has a strong protection dimension”. In this regard, several Council members may call for the swift deployment of women and child protection advisors, as stipulated in UNSMIL’s mandate in resolution 2542 of 15 September 2020.

The strategic review report warns of a “growing stalemate in the political, security and economic intra-Libyan dialogue tracks”. The review recommended a restructuring of UNSMIL, including replacing the Geneva-based Special Envoy with a Tripoli-based Special Representative, thus reversing the changes made to UNSMIL’s structure in 2020, with the aim of facilitating a renewed focus on the political dynamics of the various aspects of the conflict in Libya. At the time of writing, Council members are negotiating a draft resolution renewing UNSMIL’s mandate ahead of its 15 September expiry. They may wish to hear Kubiš’ views on how the Council and UNSMIL can best support Libyan actors in maintaining the gains made in the intra-Libyan dialogue tracks. Council members might use the open briefing to express support for the mission and explain their views on UNSMIL’s possible future role and configuration. In the consultations, they may further discuss various aspects of the mandate renewal.

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