UN approves new Libya special envoy, but Leon says he will stay until deal is signed

Libya Channel with Reuters


The United Nations Security Council on Friday approved the appointment of German UN official Martin Kobler as the new UN special envoy to Libya, said diplomats, though it was unclear when he would take over mediating stalled peace talks.


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon notified the 15-member council in a letter, seen by Reuters, of his intention to replace the current envoy Bernardino Leon with Kobler. But the letter did not specify when Kobler would take up the role.


Leon still maintains that a peace deal is within reach.“ I will not leave my post until conflict parties have reached a final agreement that puts an end to the political and security crisis in Libya”, he said in an interview with Arabic-language broadcaster Radio Sawa on Thursday, stirring confusion over his impending departure.


Leon explained that he had not wanted to extend his one-year mandate, which expired in September, because he believed that dialogue parties would have signed an agreement by then.


But the UN-imposed deadline of September 20 passed without any deal being signed, and “the situation changed”, so Leon.


Leon again expressed optimism that the dialogue parties were close to signing the political agreement that he helped work out over the past year. The Libyan Parliament, he said, might approve the latest draft agreement in its next session in Tobruk on Monday. Given the “positive mood in Tripoli”, the signing could take place “within a few weeks”.


A senior UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, meanwhile told Reuters that Leon was currently due to leave on November 6, but that could be extended if there was a sudden breakthrough in his mediation efforts.


Leon said that while he wished to oversee the signing of the deal someone else could take his place for its implementation. But based on Leon’s own comments it seems unlikely that the signing will take place by November 6.


Libya fell into turmoil last summer when armed coalition Libya Dawn took over the capital, resurrecting the former parliament and setting up its own government. Meanwhile, the internationally recognized Libyan government and elected parliament has been operating out of eastern Libya.


After a year of tedious negotiations, Leon presented rival factions with a proposed national unity government on October 8, but hardliners on both sides have resisted the power-sharing deal and neither of the rival parliaments has officially taken position. Talks are currently at a standstill.


Leon said last week consultations continued with both sides and warned small factional leaders not to obstruct attempts to create a unity agreement and peace deal.


On Thursday he reaffirmed that the final deal would be based on the draft agreement he presented early this month, but also said that the option of amending the text could not be ruled out.


Leon’s appointed successor is no stranger to tough UN jobs. Kobler most recently headed the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has also been the UN special envoy to Iraq and deputy UN representative in Afghanistan, among other UN positions. Previously, the German diplomat held senior positions in the German Government and Foreign Office. He speaks fluent Arabic, according to his biography.

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