Mission in Libya extended until January 31 amid discord at the UN
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday unanimously voted to extend the UN political mission in Libya until the end of January as the country’s future remains in limbo, raising concerns over the possibility of holding the elections scheduled for December.
However, the most powerful organ of the UN remained divided over the withdrawal of all mercenaries and foreign forces from the oil-rich North African nation and from the leadership of the mission.
The vote extended the current mission until January 31 to ensure the United Nations can continue to support the Libyan transitional government.
The December 24 elections aim to reunite the country after a decade of unrest. The end of January date also coincides with the end of the contract of the UN special envoy, Jan Kubis, who has been the subject of a debate between Western countries and Russia on where he should be. based.
Kubis is currently working out of Geneva, but a strategic review of the mission, known as the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), included the relocation of its leader to the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The West has strongly supported this, especially in the run-up to the elections, but Russia opposed it.
Previously, the Security Council had only extended UNSMIL’s mandate by two weeks due to disputes between the West and Russia over the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces, as called for in an agreement between the West and Russia. October 2020 ceasefire between rival Libyan governments in the country. East and West.
Faced with rival draft resolutions backed by the West and Russia – both almost certain to be defeated – and the end of the current term on Thursday, council members decided to simply extend it without any updates or changes.
British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward regretted that all Council members did not support her draft compromise resolution, stressing that “Libya is at a critical point” and that it is “essential that the elections take place on time and be credible and inclusive “.
She urged the members of the Security Council to insist on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of all foreign and mercenary forces from Libya, “without reservation and without delay”.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said the consensus on the resolution shows international support for the Libyan people “at a very sensitive and very important stage” leading up to the elections.
He said that the implementation of the recommendations of the strategic review should wait until after the elections.
Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and divided the country between a UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities loyal to the coup leader Khalifa Haftar in the east. Both sides are supported by different armed groups and foreign governments.
Haftar launched a military offensive in 2019 to capture the capital, a campaign backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Russia and France. But its march on Tripoli ultimately failed in June 2020, after Turkey sent troops to support the Libyan government, which also had the backing of Qatar and Italy.
This paved the way for the October ceasefire agreement and a transitional government tasked with leading the country to the December 24 elections.
Thursday’s vote postponed a Security Council statement on mercenaries and foreign fighters and the Kubis base. The British draft resolution called on all countries to comply with the UN arms embargo against Libya, “including ceasing all support and withdrawing all armed mercenary personnel.”
He also expressed concern about the impact of the Libyan conflict on neighboring countries.
The Russian project, meanwhile, called on all Libyan parties to fully implement the October 2020 ceasefire agreement and urged all countries to withdraw foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya as part of the process. of a “synchronized, parallel, balanced and progressive withdrawal”.
The UN estimated in December 2020 that there were at least 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including Syrians, Russians, Sudanese and Chadians. But diplomats said speakers at an informal council meeting in late April said there were more – including 13,000 Syrians and 11,000 Sudanese.
Last September, UN experts monitoring the implementation of sanctions against Libya said 11 companies had violated the arms embargo, including the Wagner Group, a Russian private security company.
In May 2020, the panel said Wagner provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to support Haftar. The British project had also said that the head of the UN mission should be based in Tripoli and asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to keep Kubis as special envoy for six months “to focus on engagement with Libyan actors and with international actors to end their role in the conflict. “
The Russian project was similar but required Guterres to keep Kubis for six months “with further extensions for a period to be decided by the Security Council” – which would have given Russia a veto over any decision on the mandate and the base of operations of the special envoy.