Stephanie Williams named as UN Libya adviser before presidential election

New position created for leader of talks that resulted in an October 2020 ceasefire

Stephanie Williams served as the deputy UN special representative in Libya from 2018 to 2020 when she became the acting special representative for almost a year. Photo: AFP

The UN has named US diplomat Stephanie Williams as special adviser on Libya before the country's presidential election later this month.

US Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday announced the appointment of Ms Williams, who led talks that resulted in an October 2020 ceasefire deal in the oil-rich country.

Her appointment as special adviser to the UN chief on Libya – a new position – follows the announcement on November 23 that the UN special envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, was resigning after 10 months in the role.

Mr Kubis, who is based in Geneva, told the UN Security Council he was leaving to make way for a change he considers vital – moving the mission chief’s job to Libya’s capital, Tripoli.

Libya is set to hold the first round of its presidential election on December 24. It comes after years of UN-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and end the country’s civil war.

The country was plunged into turmoil after a Nato-backed uprising in 2011 toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed.

It then was divided between rival governments – one in the east, backed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and a UN-supported administration in Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.

The October 2020 ceasefire led to an agreement on a transitional government in early February and elections scheduled for December 24. Both agreements were overseen by Ms Williams.

A member of the US Senior Foreign Service with the rank of minister-counsellor, Ms Williams is a fluent Arabic speaker. She served as the deputy UN special representative in Libya from 2018 to 2020 when she became the acting special representative for almost a year while Mr Guterres searched for a special representative.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who announced her appointment, said: “Ms Williams did a spectacular job when she was in office, and we are delighted that she accepted the offer to return.”

He said she will return to Tripoli as special adviser “and will start in the coming days,” which “ensures that we will have the leadership in place during this very critical month of December".

Updated: December 7th 2021, 1:24 PM