UN extends mission to Libya, but only until January

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution extending its political mission in Libya -- but only until January 31, shortly after the country is to stage its presidential election, after a fierce struggle between Britain and London over the text.

The 15-member Council had been on track to extend the mission in mid-September for a year, key in the run-up to elections on December 24, which are intended to turn the page on a decade of war.

But a dispute erupted between Britain and Russia, both of which have veto-wielding power on the Council.

Moscow rejected the language in a resolution drafted by London that would have called for the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya, as well as a clause on the future of the UN envoy to Libya.

Mired in the standoff, the Security Council was forced to technically extend the mission's mandate by 15 days, until September 30, to give more time for negotiations between Moscow and London -- but the talks were in vain.

On Wednesday, Moscow once again threatened to veto the resolution as amended. And then Russia pushed the issue even further by putting forth its own text in a rare act of defiance.

After an emergency meeting on Thursday between the five permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- they adopted an abbreviated resolution, extending the mission until January 31, 2022.

- 'Unfortunate' -

Western and African members of the Council deplored the outcome on Thursday.

The United States called it "unfortunate," while Kenya called for an African to lead the process.

Libya was gripped by violence and political turmoil in the aftermath of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

In recent years, the oil-rich country has been split between two rival administrations backed by foreign powers and myriad militias. Eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar was backed by Russia.

After Haftar's forces were routed from the country's west last year, the two camps signed a ceasefire in Geneva in October.

An interim administration was established in March this year to prepare for presidential and parliamentary polls on December 24.

But divisions quickly resurfaced, raising concerns that elections might not go ahead.

The United Nations has also recommended having just one person lead its mission to the country.

In 2020, the United States imposed a dual leadership, against the advice of the other 14 members of the Security Council: an emissary in Geneva, Slovak Jan Kubis, and a coordinator based in the Libyan capital, Zimbabwean Raisedon Zenenga.

The UN recommends having only one emissary based in Tripoli, as was the case in the past.

Both the British and Russian resolutions, seen by AFP, included language highlighting the need to have a special envoy based in Tripoli, flanked by two deputies. But that language was not included in the final text.