Delayed UN Libya peace envoy appointment nears

Libya has been without a formally appointed UN peace envoy since March

(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 10, 2020, then UN special representative for Libya Ghassan Salame arrives to attend the EU foreign ministers emergency talks on Iran at the Europa building in the Belgian capital Brussels. Salame says he has higher hopes than ever of bringing an end to a decade of violence in the North African country, in a Zoom interview with AFP a day after rival military forces concluded their latest UN-led meetings to fill in the details of a landmark October ceasefire deal. / AFP / Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD
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South Africa’s UN ambassador on Tuesday described progress towards the long-delayed appointment of a UN peace envoy to Libya and the potential deployment of ceasefire monitors to the war-torn country.

Speaking with reporters in New York, Jerry Matjila urged the UN to break a months-long impasse and appoint Nikolay Mladenov as the new Libya peace envoy to replace Ghassan Salame, who quit in March due to stress.

African countries had slowed down the appointment of Mr Mladenov, a Bulgarian diplomat and the favoured candidate of the United States, arguing that an African was best suited to resolving conflict in one of the continent’s top oil exporters.

“The Secretary-General [Antonio Guterres] can go ahead and appoint who he appoints, and the Africans will oblige,” Mr Matjila said at a briefing to mark South Africa holding the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month of December.

The South African envoy expressed frustration that two African candidates had been rebuffed but noted that the UN’s new envoy to Libya would have an African deputy and consult extensively with the African Union.

Speaking separately, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that “everyone would like to see the slot filled in Libya” and that Mr Guterres, the UN chief, was “working very hard to close that process”.

Mr Matjila also discussed a possible UN deployment of European troops to monitor a fragile truce and foreign weapons flows to Libya, even though the proposal has been met with “suspicion” from some Libyan military chiefs, he said.

“We hope that, during our presidency, there will be a solution found on a robust monitoring of the ceasefire that was agreed in Libya, including the verification that foreign fighters have left Libya,” said Mr Matjila.

Libya descended into chaos after the Nato-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. A ceasefire agreed in October and the prospect of national elections next year have raised hopes of lasting peace between the two rival administrations in the east and west of the country.