Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov has turned down an offer to lead the UN mission in conflict-stricken Libya, according to a UN spokesman.
Mladenov told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday he would not take up the position of special envoy for the North African country “for personal and family reasons”, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.
“Mr Mladenov told the Secretary-General in a letter that he had taken this decision for personal and family reasons,” Dujarric said.
The announced came as the 48-year-old’s term as the UN special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, a position he has occupied since 2015, was set to expire.
Before that, he was the top UN envoy in Iraq, and had served as Bulgaria’s foreign minister from 2010 to 2013 and in the European Parliament from 2007 to 2009.
He took the job a few months after the end of the deadliest, most destructive war between Israel and Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip.
In recent years, Mladenov, alongside other mediators from Egypt and Qatar, played a significant role defusing numerous rounds of cross-border violence that threatened another war between Israel and Hamas.
He was to replace Ghassan Salame, the former UN envoy for Libya, who resigned in March amid fierce fighting between Libya’s rival sides over the capital, Tripoli.
UN acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams will continue leading the mission in Libya, and the UN would continue the search for Salame’s replacement, said the UN spokesman.
There were objections to two previous suggestions, and the US then insisted the job be split between a special envoy handling the diplomacy and someone to run the UN operation.
The African group in the Security Council had wanted an African in the diplomatic job but agreed to the second spot running the operation.
The UN announced the appointment on Wednesday of Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe as assistant secretary-general and mission coordinator of the UN support mission in Libya.
Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
In October, the two major sides in the country’s war – the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) – agreed to a ceasefire.