By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday requested UN Secretary-General António Guterres to deploy an advance team to Libya as a first step in sending monitors to observe an October 2020 ceasefire agreement between parties in conflict in the country.
In December 2020, Secretary-General Guterres recommended that international monitors be deployed to the war-ravaged country to oversee the ceasefire from the strategic city of Sirte – the gateway to Libya’s oil-rich fields and export terminals.
“As they examine your recommendation for an amended mandate for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the members of the Security Council request that you establish and deploy swiftly an advance team to Libya,” the Council said in a letter to the Secretary-General.
Libya has been beset by internal divisions for almost a decade, since the ouster and killing of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country has been divided between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, and the General Khalifa Haftar-led Libyan National Army (LNA) based in the east.
Hope for national reconciliation grew with a fragile ceasefire agreed in Geneva in October 2020. The agreement called for a withdrawal of all armed forces from conflict lines and the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters within three months, which has not happened.
Limited time frame
In the letter to the Secretary-General, the Council said it expects within 45 days to receive reports on the preparations from the advance team, and “practical proposals” for ceasefire monitoring after coordinating with Libya’s Joint Military Commission. The commission includes five representatives from each of the rival parties.
The UN Security Council said this will enable members to change the mandate of the UN political mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL.
In his December report, Guterres recommended unarmed, non-uniformed individual international monitors to be deployed under the auspices of the United Nations.
Under the ceasefire agreement, the monitors are to provide oversight and report compliance on the removal of military forces and mercenaries; the deployment of the joint police force; and the clearance of the remnants of war, including mines.
However, the Libyan parties conveyed their firm position that no deployment of foreign forces of any kind, including UN personnel should occur in their territory. Instead, the Joint Military Commission welcomed offers of potential support to the monitoring mechanism from regional organizations including the African Union, European Union and the Arab League under UN auspices.
Guterres added that the deployment of monitors under the umbrella of UNSMIL to the area around Sirte would require funding and personnel from U.N. member states.