Libya’s foreign minister has surprised many on Saturday by calling on the United Nations to put boots on the ground in his country to restore peace.
“We value very highly the efforts of the UN Mission led by Mr Ghassan Salame which led to ceasefire agreement [in Tripoli] and call on all concerned parties to respect it,” Mohammaed Siyala, foreign minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) told the United Nations 73rd general assembly on Saturday.
“We remain committed to the implementation of the security arrangements contained in the [Libyan] Political Agreement which would contribute to the unification of the military and security institutions,” continued Mr Siyala before throwing his political hand grenade:
“Priority must be given to achieving peace and security and that is a stressing step that requires effective contribution from the UN. That is why we believe that it is important for the UN Mission in Libya to be converted from a special political mission into a peacekeeping one to support and achieve stability and peace across the country”.
In response to Mr Siyala’s unexpected move, Ghassan Salame, chief of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), told Aljazeera Arabic last night that he was “surprised” by Mr Siyala’s remarks.
“The Mission has played a key role in brokering ceasefire in Tripoli through the Zawya agreement, which led to the establishment of the security arrangements committee, and that has been done by what is basically a political Mission,” explained Mr Salame. “It’s possible that Mr Siyala appreciates such role and wants us to continue and perhaps he wishes that we do more of this ‘political’ role. I will ask for a clarification from the head of the Presidency Council as to whether there is such a Libyan request. Anyway, the Mission’s role is to be decided by the Security Council”.
In fairness to Mr Siyala, his idea is not exactly new and has been raised by others during the recent violence in Tripoli which killed 117 people. In 2017, the UN was reported to have deployed a force comprising 210 Nepalese guards to protect UNSMIL headquarters in Janzour’s Palm City.
Aside from this unexpected request, Mr Siayala’s speech was balanced and unbiased. And as Italy prepares for a Libya conference in Sicily which many say is designed to undo the Paris agreement reached in May, Mr Siyala opened his speech by highlighting, albeit subtly, the negative impact on his country by the Franco-Italian rivalry. “We underscore the need to coordinate these efforts and to avoid any competition when initiatives are launched because this clearly would confuse and lessens the chances of overcoming the crisis. We believe that we need to coordinate with the United Nations before holding regional or international meetings on Libyan, to ensure that the outcomes are compatible with the UN vision for solving the Libyan crisis”.
UPDATE - 01 Oct 2018
GNA’s foreign ministry today issued a clarification that Mr Siayala’s remarks were not aimed at calling for UNSMIL to be converted into a peacekeeping mission, but at encouraging the UN to take more active and direct involvement in the Libyan case, and that UNSMIL’s political track should not be separated from a security track.
The statement added: “The aim behind the request was to give the UN a more effective role to ensure that there are no gaps in UNSMIL’s mandate that would allow other counties to intervene to impose their own visions. It was also a clear request for the international community to involve GNA foreign ministry in drafting the UNSMIL mandate”.