UN extends its Libya mission by just three months

AFP , Tuesday 1 Feb 2022

The UN Security Council on Monday adopted a British-drafted resolution extending its political mission in Libya for just three months, after several days of a standoff between the United States and Russia.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). (Photo courtesy of UNSMIL official website)

The extremely short text, which was adopted unanimously, provides for a continuation of the mission until April 30. An earlier version had taken the mission until September 15.

The text contains no mention of the Council's hopes that presidential and legislative elections will be held soon in Libya. Initially scheduled for December 24, the presidential election was supposed to have put an end to more than 10 years of chaos and conflict, but it has been postponed indefinitely.

Moscow, which favored a short renewal of the UNSMIL mission, threatened to use its veto and even went as far as proposing a counter-draft to the British text last week in order to stress the need for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint "without further delay" a new envoy for Libya.

Since the abrupt resignation in November of Jan Kubis of Slovakia, the post of UN envoy has been de facto occupied by the American Stephanie Williams, an Arabic-speaking diplomat with the title of "special adviser".

That allowed the UN head to skirt around the need for a Security Council agreement on the choice of appointee, which has for years been a contentious issue.

According to diplomats, Russia is seeking to get rid of Williams as quickly as possible while the United States wants her to stay in her post.

That opposition, which effectively weakens Williams' position vis-a-vis the Libyans, was the main sticking point during the Security Council negotiations to renew the mandate of UN mission.

Speaking after the vote, Russia's deputy ambassador to the UN, Anna Evstignyeva, said she hoped the appointment of a new emissary to head the UN Libya mission "will make it possible to fully relaunch" the project.

By contrast, her US counterpart Jeffrey DeLaurentis said the United States called on all Council members and the Libyans themselves to engage "constructively" with Williams and to support her efforts.

France's deputy ambassador, Nathalie Broadhurst, regretted the lack of unity in the Council but said it "should encourage the Libyans to resolve their differences in order to allow the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible".

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