UN extends mission in Libya for 3 months at Russia’s insistence

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UNITED NATIONS β€” The UN Security Council voted on Thursday to extend its political mission in Libya, but at Russia’s insistence, for just three months instead of a one-year term.

The three African members of the council abstained in protest at Russia’s blocking of the longer extension which they say is needed to help the divided country move to elections and stability.

Russia’s Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Poyansky reiterated Moscow’s position that the UN mission must get a new special representative before it has a longer mandate.

UN Special Envoy Jan Kubis resigned on November 23 after 10 months on the job, and a number of candidates put forward by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were rejected either by members council, either by Libya or by neighboring countries.

After Kubis left, Guterres appointed veteran US diplomat Stephanie Williams, a former UN deputy special representative in Libya, as special adviser. But council diplomats said she was leaving the post on Sunday, meaning the mission will be headless as Libyans grapple with a constitutional and political crisis.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States shared the frustration of the three African council members – Ghana, Kenya and Gabon. She called “specious” Russia’s claim that a three-month extension to Oct. 31 will somehow boost the selection of a new special representative.

The mission is important to the Libyan people “by supporting preparations for the elections, monitoring the ceasefire, reporting on human rights issues and providing technical assistance on the finances and budget of the state,” she told the board after the 12-0 vote.

β€œIt does them and all of us a disservice to play games with the mandate,” she added.

Oil-rich Libya has been embroiled in conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has been divided by rival administrations, one by one. is backed by military commander Khalifa Hifter and a UN-backed administration in the western capital of Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.

In April 2019, Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive in an attempt to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

An October 2020 ceasefire agreement led to an agreement on a transitional government in early February 2021 led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and the scheduling of elections for December 24 last year. But the elections did not take place.

Dbeibah refused to step down and, in response, lawmakers in the east of the country elected a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, a former interior minister who now heads a separate administration outside the city of Sirte.

Under-Secretary-General Martha Pobee told the council on Monday that the overall situation in Libya remained “very volatile”, with a tense security situation, “deeply disturbing” shows of force and sporadic violence by militias engaged in political maneuvers.

She also cited a dispute over the leadership of the National Oil Corporation and serious human rights concerns, including the arrest by armed groups of dozens of protesters who took part in July Day demonstrations decrying deteriorating conditions. of life and demanding progress in the elections.

Polyansky said Russia understood the views of his African colleagues, but he defended limiting the mission’s mandate without appointing a new special representative, saying it was unusual for the body “to remain headless. for some time now”.

He warned that Libya “has approached a red line, crossing which armed conflict could resume”.

“What’s at stake now is the future of Libya and its people,” Polyansky said after the vote.

Solomon Korbieh, minister-counsellor at the UN Mission in Ghana, said the fifth brief extension of the mission’s mandate demonstrated yet again the failure of the Security Council “to show its commitment to the Libyan people”.

He called on council members “to put Libya’s overall interests above all else” and to work with the secretary general to find a new leader for the mission.

“The Libyan people are calling for elections as a fundamental step towards rebuilding their nation and this council cannot let them down,” Korbieh said.

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