UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Thursday to extend the U.N. political mission in Libya until after the country’s critical presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for late December.
However, the world body remained divided over the withdrawal of all mercenaries and foreign forces from the oil-rich North African nation and the mission’s leadership.
The vote extended the current mission until Jan. 31 to ensure the United Nations can continue supporting Libya’s transitional government. The Dec. 24 elections aim to reunite the country after a decade of turmoil.
The end-of January date also coincides with the end of U.N. special envoy Jan Kubis’s contract — a subject of a dispute between Western nations and Russia on where he should be based. Kubis currently works out of Geneva but a strategic review of the mission, known as UNSMIL, included having its chief relocate to Libya’s capital, Tripoli. The West strongly backed this, especially in the run-up to the elections, but Russia opposed.
Earlier, the Security Council had extended UNSMIL’s mandate for only two weeks because of disputes between the West and Russia over the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces as demanded in an October 2020 cease-fire agreement between rival Libyan governments in the country’s east and west.
Facing rival Western-backed and Russian draft resolutions, and Thursday’s end of the current mandate, council members decided to simply extend the current mandate.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and split the country between a U.N.-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities loyal to commander Khalifa Hifter in the east. Each have been backed by different armed groups and foreign governments.
Hifter launched a military offensive in 2019 to capture the capital, a campaign backed by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Russia and France. But his march on Tripoli ultimately failed in June 2020, after Turkey sent troops to support the Libyan government, which also had the backing of Qatar and Italy. This paved the way for the October cease-fire agreement and a transitional government charged with leading the country to Dec. 24 elections.