United Nations Extends Libya Mission By Three Months

The United Nations Security Council votes to hold a meeting, Monday, Jan. 31, 2022. The United States and Russia are squaring off at the U.N. Security Council over Ukraine, with Washington calling Moscow's actions a threat to international peace and security, while a Kremlin envoy ridiculed Monday's meeting as a "PR stunt." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has adopted a resolution extending its political mission in Libya by just three months after a dispute between the West and Russia over the appointment of a new top U.N. envoy for the North African country.

The short message, which was adopted unanimously, provides for a continuation of the mission until April 30. An earlier version had authorized the mission until Sept. 15.

The message contains no mention of the council’s hopes that presidential and legislative elections will be held soon in Libya. Initially scheduled for Dec. 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 U.N. 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 U.N. envoy has been de facto occupied by an Arabic-speaking diplomat, American Stephanie Williams with the title of “special adviser.”

That allowed the U.N. head to skirt around the need for a UNSC agreement on the choice of an 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 UNSC negotiations to renew the mandate of the U.N. mission.

Speaking after the vote, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Anna Evstignyeva said she hoped the appointment of a new emissary to head the U.N. Libya mission will make it possible to fully relaunch the project.

By contrast, her U.S. counterpart Jeffrey DeLaurentis said the United States called on all UNSC members and the Libyans themselves to engage “constructively” with Williams and to support her efforts.

DeLaurentis called it a sub-optimal outcome for the Libyan people and a poor reflection on the council.

France’s Deputy Ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst regretted the lack of unity in the UNSC 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.

Oil-rich Libya plunged into turmoil after a NATO-backed 2011 uprising that split the country into rival governments – one in the east, backed by putschist Gen. Khalifa Haftar, and another, U.N.-recognized administration in the capital of Tripoli, in the west.

In April 2019, Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched an offensive to attempt to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey and Qatar stepped up their military support for the internationally recognized Tripoli government.

Mediated by Williams, the October 2020 cease-fire led to the formation of a transitional government and scheduled elections for Dec. 24 but the vote faced steep challenges that eventually forced its postponement.

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