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Libya: Briefing and Consultations

On Monday (27 June), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on the situation in Libya. Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo and a civil society representative are expected to brief.

An expected focus of Monday’s meeting is Libya’s ongoing political turmoil stemming from the establishment of two rival government structures. The ongoing stand-off is between the incumbent prime minister, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU) by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)—an assembly consisting of 75 participants representing the main Libyan geographical, social and political constituencies, which was responsible for charting the way towards elections—and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was elected interim prime minister by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives on 10 February.

Council members may wish to hear more from DiCarlo about the efforts of Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams to mediate between both factions to chart a consensus-based path towards elections. Williams initiated a dialogue forum, hosted in Cairo, to accelerate holding Libya’s long-delayed elections and promote dialogue between the rival political factions, which have put forward competing electoral roadmaps. Participating were members of the House of Representatives and of the High Council of State (the executive institution and constitutional authority established by the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement that is mandated to propose policies and recommendations on various political issues).

The third and final round of negotiations on the Libyan constitutional track took place in Cairo from 12 to 19 June. Williams released a press statement on 20 June saying that “the Joint Committee achieved a great deal of consensus on the contentious articles in the Libyan Draft Constitution” but that “differences persist on the measures governing the transitional period leading to elections”. She called on “the Presidencies of the two Chambers to meet within ten days at an agreed upon location to bridge outstanding issues”. Council members may be interested in updates on next steps in this regard.

In relation to the security situation, DiCarlo may note that it remains volatile since violent clashes in Tripoli on 17 May between forces loyal to Dbeibah and those supporting Bashagha, as the latter attempted to move his parallel government to the capital. After Bashagha abandoned his attempt, the situation in Tripoli returned to relative calm. A 10 June statement by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said that the mission “received reports of clashes in Tripoli [the previous] night between armed groups, which endangered the lives of civilians, and separately of mobilization of armed groups, along with heavy weapons, from areas surrounding Tripoli”.

Another issue some Council members may raise, and seek updates on, is the mission’s leadership. Several members may call for the swift appointment of a Special Representative for Libya. (Former Special Envoy Ján Kubiš resigned in November 2021. In resolution 2629 of 29 April, the Council converted the Special Envoy position to a Special Representative post.) Since Williams is apparently expected to leave her post this month, finding a candidate to lead the mission has become even more urgent.

Several Council members are likely to reiterate calls for a consensual path to holding long-delayed parliamentary and presidential elections; the need to refrain from actions that could deepen existing divisions and trigger conflict; and the withdrawal of foreign forces, fighters and mercenaries. Some members may also reiterate concerns about the level of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, including against refugees, migrants, human rights defenders and women. In this regard, they may emphasise the importance of the work of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya, whose mandate is due for renewal during the Human Rights Council’s current session, which concludes on 8 July.

Regarding the competing political factions, the Council still appears publicly united on the position that Libyans themselves must decide their political fate. Russia is the only Council member to have announced its support for Bashagha since his appointment, but it has also indicated that it will respect any leadership decision that Libyans may take.

On 20 June, Council members discussed Libya under “any other business”, at the request of Russia. The meeting focused on the LPDF roadmap with a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific Mohamed Khaled Khiari. The LPDF’s political roadmap, adopted on 15 November 2020, articulated objectives and deadlines for forming institutions capable of organising elections and implementing political, economic and military reforms.

The LPDF roadmap set 22 June as the expiration date of the transitional period. In a 22 June press briefing, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Farhan Haq noted that the roadmap set the 22 June deadline “provided that presidential and parliamentary elections are held by then, which has not been the case”. Haq urged Libyan leaders to “refrain from using the date of 22 June as a tool for political manipulation”, while calling on them to redouble their efforts to maintain calm and stability. (Libya’s presidential elections, initially foreseen for 24 December 2021, with parliamentary elections intended to follow several weeks after, were postponed indefinitely due to a delay in finalising the candidates’ list and because of controversy surrounding the electoral law.)

It seems that ahead of the 20 June meeting, Russia circulated a draft presidential statement on Libya. At the time of writing, it was unclear if and when the Council may take action on the draft text.

Looking ahead, Council members are expected to vote next month on a resolution renewing the mandate of UNSMIL, which expires on 31 July.

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