UN chief Guterres tries again to appoint a Libya mediator


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to appoint veteran diplomat Jan Kubis as his envoy in Libya nearly a year after the last mediator stepped down, according to a letter to the UN Security Council seen by Reuters on Thursday.

If there are no objections by any of the 15-member council by Friday evening, Kubis will succeed Ghassan Salame, who quit the role in March last year due to stress. Salame’s deputy Stephanie Williams has been acting Libya envoy.

Kubis, a former Slovakian foreign minister, is currently the UN special coordinator for Lebanon. He has also served as the UN special envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The planned appointment of Kubis comes after the Security Council approved in December a plan by Guterres’ to name Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov to the Libya role. But a week later Mladenov said he could not take up the position due to “personal and family reasons.”

That followed months of disagreement in the Security Council over a US push to split the role to have one person run the UN political mission and a special envoy to focus on mediation. The council eventually agreed to that proposal in September.

The proposed appointment of Mladenov – who was then the UN Middle East envoy – was delayed, said diplomats, because some council members wanted Guterres to first name who would succeed Mladenov as mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

In December the council approved Norwegian Tor Wennesland to replace Mladenov.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. In October, the two major sides in the country’s war – the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) – agreed a ceasefire.

Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey.