UN chief to appoint special envoy to mediate Libya conflict

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to name new envoy after months of deadlock following resignation of Ghassane Salame.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (C) speaks at a UN Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York on February 26, 2020. Johannes EISELE / AFP
Russia and China said they abstained from voting on the resolution because it did not include their suggested amendments [File: Johannes Eisele/AFP]

The United Nations Security Council has asked Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy to broker peace in Libya, although Russia and China abstained from voting on the resolution that also extended the UN mission in the country.

Ghassan Salame, who headed the UN political mission and was also charged with trying to mediate peace, quit in March citing stress.

Guterres informally proposed a replacement, but the United States wanted the role split to have one person run the UN mission and a special envoy to focus on mediation.

The Security Council agreed to that proposal on Tuesday.

“With the new structure, we will have to present a new candidate and we will have to naturally consult with the Security Council for that purpose,” Guterres told Reuters news agency in an interview on Monday.

The Security Council traditionally agrees – informally – by consensus to such appointments.

Several months ago, the US proposed that Guterres appoint former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to be special envoy, but diplomats said she had since withdrawn herself.

Russia and China said they abstained from voting on the resolution because it did not include their suggested amendments.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognised government controlling the capital, Tripoli, and the northwest, while renegade military leader Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east.

Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the Government of National Accord (GNA) is backed by Turkey.

“I’m shocked with the fact that so many spoilers, so many countries, have been interfering with the Libyan situation, building up military capacity on both sides … completely disregarding resolutions of the Security Council in relation to the arms embargo, or mercenaries,” Guterres told Reuters.

Source: Reuters