Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 41, 4 March 2020

Libya: Ceasefire in tatters, as the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame resigns
Lakshmi V Menon

In the news

The United Nations' envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, who is the Head of the UNSMIL, has announced his resignation on 2 March. In a Twitter post, Salame stated that he would be stepping down from his position due to health reasons. He further added that he has tried to unite the Libyans and restrict foreign influence in the country however due to health reasons he could no longer hold this highly stressful position and sort to ask the UN Secretary-General to relieve him of his duties.

The resignation comes amid many Libyan politicians and social media activists pushing for Salame to leave, stating that he is biased to one party of the conflict over the other.

Salame, a former Lebanese culture minister, was appointed as a UN envoy in Libya in June 2017 and since then has been struggled to bring the two sides together for talks to end Libya's conflict.

Issues at large

International efforts to broker a Libyan ceasefire will be further pushed into chaos by the unexpected resignation of Salame. Further, Salame stated that he was disappointed with the major players involved in the conflict who have failed to keep their commitments at a peace conference in Berlin in January. His decision to quit is likely to be followed by a further rise in political violence, and the continuation of an oil depot blockade that has led Libya’s oil production to a standstill.

Salame has been unable to persuade major powers to use their influence to end the civil war between Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) forces in the country’s east, and the UN-recognised government of Fayez al-Sarraj, based in the capital, Tripoli. With both sides suspended their involvement, this leaves room for the turmoil to set in.

In perspective

Salame has been an active player in efforts to restore peace to the North African country. The resignation comes as a hit to the already fragile truce in war-torn Libya. Salame was involved in mediating three-tiered talks between Libya's warring sides on economic, political and military matters. Although spokesman of the UN Chief, Stephane Dujarric stated that Salame’s exit would not constitute a setback to peace efforts in the country, the sudden move to leave comes at a time when the rivals side have pulled out from the Libya peace talks, thus it becomes important to ensure a quick and efficient transition is implemented to avoid unfavourable consequences.

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