What's In Blue

Posted Mon 29 Aug 2022

Libya: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow afternoon (30 August), 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 will brief. The chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj (India), will present the periodic report on the committee’s activities.

An expected focus of the meeting is Libya’s ongoing political turmoil stemming from the establishment of two rival government structures. The Secretary-General’s most recent report (S/2022/632), dated 19 August, which covers developments since his 20 May report (S/2022/409), notes that the “political crisis” is ongoing and that the leadership stand-off has become “further entrenched” between incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, elected in February 2021 to head the interim Government of National Unity (GNU), and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, who was elected interim prime minister by the House of Representatives (the Libyan legislature based in Tobruk) on 10 February. The report also notes that 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—did not convene because of divisions between members supporting either Dbeibah or Bashagha.

DiCarlo may highlight the link between the political and security situations. According to the Secretary-General’s report “the protracted political stalemate continued to negatively affect the security environment in Libya”, including the volatile security situation in the capital, Tripoli, and in western Libya; the increased number of clashes among armed groups; and the demonstrations held across the country on 1 July.

On 27 August, fighting broke out in Tripoli between forces loyal to Dbeibah and those supporting Bashagha, as the latter reportedly attempted to enter the capital. The situation returned to relative calm the following day, after Bashagha abandoned his attempt. (A similar failed attempt by Bashagha to move his parallel government to Tripoli in May also led to violent clashes in the city). According to media reports, 32 people were killed and 159 were injured in the incident, making it the worst outbreak of violence in Tripoli in the past two years. In a 27 August tweet, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed concern over the armed clashes, including “indiscriminate medium and heavy shelling in civilian-populated neighborhoods”, which reportedly caused damage to civilian facilities such as hospitals. On the same day, Secretary-General António Guterres also expressed concern about the fighting and urged the Libyan parties to “engage in a genuine dialogue to address the ongoing political impasse and not to use force to resolve their differences”.

In her briefing, DiCarlo might refer to developments over the past few months on the implementation of the intra-Libyan dialogue tracks. On the political track, the Secretary-General’s report notes that the UN “continued to focus on enabling the holding of credible, transparent, and inclusive elections as soon as possible based on an agreed constitutional framework”. It refers to a UN-facilitated high-level meeting held in Geneva from 28 to 30 June, where Speaker of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and President of the High Council of State Khaled Al-Mishri discussed a roadmap for the holding of national elections, observing that “an agreement on a constitutional framework for the holding of elections is within reach”, but noting that there has been no agreement on the eligibility requirements for candidates in the first transitional presidential elections.

On the economic track, the Secretary-General’s report says that UNSMIL continued to support efforts to advance the reform and reunification of the Central Bank of Libya, with an international consulting firm providing technical assistance in the implementation of related recommendations that followed a UN-facilitated international audit. On the security track, it notes that UNSMIL continued to support the 5+5 Joint Military Commission in the implementation of the October 2020 ceasefire agreement and the operationalisation of the action plan for the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces.

Deteriorating living conditions across the country remain a concern. In this regard, the Secretary-General’s report emphasises that “the lack of access to adequate food, healthcare, water and sanitation, and education must not remain a driver of tension and conflict that prolongs and further entrenches the political deadlock”. The report notes that partial shutdown of the oil sector, which began in mid-April, had reduced Libyan oil exports by two thirds and cost the country nearly $4 billion in lost oil revenues. Oil production resumed incrementally in July, and by 17 August had risen to 1.2 million daily barrels, from 860,000 on 5 July. The resumption of oil production has provided relief to a population “which has experienced intermittent power cuts of long duration, an increase in prices of basic food items and goods, and inadequate basic services”, says the report.

In their statements, members may reiterate the urgent need for a Libyan-led inclusive political process and the holding of elections. Several members may also express concern over the precarious security situation. Another issue for the Council, which members may raise in their statements, remains the continuing gap in UNSMIL’s top leadership at a vulnerable time for the country. Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Libya Stephanie Turco Williams left her post at the end of July. At the time of writing, a Special Representative had still not been appointed despite two candidates apparently being put forward to Council members. (The position of Special Representative is expected to replace the role of Special Envoy, as decided in resolution 2629 of 29 April. Former Special Envoy Jan Kubiš resigned in November 2021.)

The A3 members of the Council (Gabon, Ghana and Kenya), supported by China, have publicly called for the position of Special Representative to be filled by a candidate from Africa as soon as possible. Russia has made its position clear that it will not consider supporting a longer mandate renewal for UNSMIL until a Special Representative has been appointed.

Council dynamics on Libya remain difficult, as evidenced by challenging negotiations on the UNSMIL mandate renewal resolutions since September 2021. (From September 2021 to date, the Council has renewed UNSMIL’s mandate five times through short-term extensions because of disagreements among Council members, including on the length of the mandate and the need to appointment a Special Representative.) The Council most recently renewed the mission’s mandate until 31 October with the adoption of resolution 2647 on 28 July, by a vote of 12 in favour and three abstentions from the A3 members due to their position that the mandate should have been renewed for longer than three months. (For more information, see our 28 July What’s in Blue story.)


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