posted on Wed 25 Mar 2020 9:15 PM
Libya: Informal Meeting on UNSMIL via Videoconferencing

Tomorrow morning (26 March), Security Council members will convene an informal videoconferencing meeting on the situation in Libya and the activities of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Acting Special Representative and head of UNSMIL Stephanie Williams is expected to brief. This is the second informal video teleconference meeting of Council members since measures announced by the Secretary-General to address COVID-19 included a partial closure of UN headquarters that began on 16 March. Originally, tomorrow’s meeting was planned for Friday (27 March), constituting the bimonthly briefing and consultations on UNSMIL and Libya sanctions. That meeting would have included a briefing by the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany, Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, in his capacity as chair of the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee. It is likely that his briefing will not take place tomorrow as the chair’s briefing needs the Committee’s consensus, which would have been difficult  to obtain in the current circumstances.

On 17 March, UNSMIL issued a press release calling “on all parties to the Libyan conflict to declare an immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities as well as a halt to the continuing transfer of all military equipment and personnel into Libya, in order to allow local authorities to rapidly respond to the unprecedented public health challenge posed by COVID-19”. On 21 March, UNSMIL issued another press release welcoming “the positive responses by the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army” regarding the calls for “a humanitarian pause”, and expressing hope that they would “stop the fighting immediately on all fronts to allow national health authorities and health partners to respond to the potential threat of COVID-19 in the country”. The same day, a statement by the Secretary-General’s Spokesman welcomed the conflict parties’ positive responses as well. On 23 March, Secretary-General António Guterres called for “an immediate global ceasefire“. According to media reports of 23 March, fighting in Libya had resumed. On 24 March, UNSMIL issued a press release citing Williams as strongly condemning “grave violations of the humanitarian pause”. The same day, Libya’s health minister confirmed the country’s first case of COVID-19. On 25 March, media reports quoted residents of Tripoli as having experienced the worst fighting in weeks.

On 2 March, the Special Representative and head of UNSMIL, Ghassan Salamé, announced that he was resigning from his post, citing stress-related health reasons. On 11 March, the Secretary-General appointed Deputy Special Representative Stephanie Williams as Acting Special Representative and head of UNSMIL.

Almost a year ago, General Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army (LNA), launched an offensive towards Tripoli and against the internationally recognised and UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) based there. Both the GNA and the LNA receive foreign military support, in breach of UN sanctions. International efforts to have the parties agree to a permanent ceasefire have been unsuccessful so far. Negotiations between Libyan parties along three tracks (economic, political and security), as a result of the Berlin Conference on Libya in January whose conclusions the Council endorsed with resolution 2509, are underway but with little progress so far.

Council members might be interested in hearing from Williams about the potential consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for the country, as well as the UN’s own efforts in this regard. Williams might update the Council on progress made on the three tracks since Salamé’s last briefing to the Council in consultations on 26 February.