UN urges withdrawal of foreign forces, mercenaries from Libya

Kubis warns against “those who would see the elections delayed.”
Friday 16/07/2021
A file picture shows UN envoy Jan Kubis holding a news conference in Berlin, Germany. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows UN envoy Jan Kubis holding a news conference in Berlin, Germany. (REUTERS)

UNITED NATIONS/ NEW YORK — The UN special envoy for Libya accused “spoilers” on Thursday of trying to obstruct the holding of crucial elections in December to unify the divided North African nation. Meanwhile, the Security Council warned that any individual or group undermining the electoral process could face UN sanctions.

Jan Kubis told a ministerial meeting of the council, attended by Libyan Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, that he spoke to many key players during his just-ended visit to Libya. All of them had reiterated their commitment to presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24, but “I am afraid many of them are not ready to walk the talk.”

He pointed to the failure of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a 75-member body from all walks of life, to agree earlier this month on a legal framework to hold elections, putting a roadmap to end the decade-old conflict in the oil-rich nation in jeopardy. He also cited the failure of foreign forces and mercenaries to leave Libya within 90 days as required under last October’s cease-fire and the failure to reopen the coastal road linking the country’s east and west, another key cease-fire provision.

Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi in 2011 between two rival authorities each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Kubis urged members of the Forum to put their differences aside and agree on a proposal for the constitutional basis of elections that the House of Representatives could immediately adopt.

“Interest groups, spoilers and armed actors must not be allowed to derail the process aimed at restoring the legitimacy, unity and sovereignty of the Libyan state and its institutions,” he stressed.

A presidential statement adopted by the Security Council echoed Kubis’ call for immediate action and legislation to allow the High National Election Commission “to have adequate time and resources” to prepare for elections.

Libya’s transitional Prime Minister Abdilhamid Dbeibah reiterated the government’s commitment to the “historic” December 24 elections and said, “At the forefront of the tasks ahead is to achieve the constitutional basis and the necessary electoral law as soon as possible.”

The council stressed that individuals and entities can face financial freezes and travel bans if the Security Council committee monitoring implementation of UN sanctions determines that they are engaging in or supporting acts that threaten Libya’s peace, stability or security, or undermine its political transition. It underlined that “such acts could include obstructing or undermining those elections planned for” in the Forum roadmap.

The Security Council again strongly urged all countries, Libyan parties and “relevant actors” to fully implement the cease-fire agreement, “including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay.”

Kubis warned that the continued presence of foreign forces and mercenaries is threatening the cease-fire.

“It is imperative that Libyan and international actors agree on a plan to commence and complete the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces,” he said. “Initial signals to this end are encouraging, but concrete steps and agreements are needed.”

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, whose country currently holds the council presidency and chaired the meeting, said maintaining the December 24 election date was “imperative” and called for a progressive time frame for the departure of “foreign elements.”

France has proposed that Syrian mercenaries from two camps start the process by leaving “as soon as in the next few weeks,” he said.

Kubis said the Joint Military Commission, comprising five members from each party, is key to implementing the cease-fire and to political progress.  He warned that its vital role “could unravel if the political process remains stalled.”

“Every effort must therefore be made to preserve its unity and to insulate its work from the detrimental effects of the political stalemate and the stand-off between Libya’s main political actors,” he said.

Kubis also cited stand-offs between the transitional government and House of Representatives, the government and eastern-based Libyan National Army and those who want to respect the time line for the upcoming election “and those who would see the elections delayed.”

He said the ramifications of the political impasse “are already beginning to manifest themselves.”

The Security Council meeting followed last month’s conference on Libya in Berlin where Germany and the United Nations brought together 17 countries and Libya’s transitional leadership to promote implementation of the cease-fire and roadmap to elections. The council’s presidential statement welcomed the conference conclusions.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the council that “during the past year, Libya has come a long way towards peace and unity.”

He urged the international community to “take a strong stance against those who favour postponing the elections for selfish political motives” and called on the council to reaffirm “that it will not tolerate any obstruction” and that it will stay the course and make the progress in Libya “irreversible.”