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Russia Blocks Longer UN Libya Mission Renewal

FILE - An elderly man waves a Libyan national flag during a demonstration in the Martyrs' Square in the centre of the Libyan capital Tripoli, currently held by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), on June 21, 2020.

The U.N. Security Council decided on Thursday to renew its political mission in Libya for only three months due to Russian opposition to a one-year extension.

Russia’s deputy ambassador, Dmitry Poyansky, reiterated Moscow's position that the U.N. mission must get a new special representative before it has a longer mandate.

Polyansky said Russia understands the view of his African colleagues, but he defended limiting the mission's mandate without the appointment of a new special representative, saying it is unusual the body "has remained headless for quite some time already.”

Ghana, Kenya and Gabon abstained to protest Russia’s blocking the longer extension they say is needed to help the divided country move to elections and stability.

Sharing the frustration of the council's three African members, U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States called Russia’s contention that a three-month extension until October 31 will somehow spur the selection of a new special representative “specious.”

“It does a disservice to them, and all of us, to play games with the mandate,” she added.

The mission is important for the Libyan people "in supporting preparations for elections, monitoring the cease-fire, reporting on human rights issues, and providing technical assistance on state finances and budget,” she told the council after the 12-0 vote.

Solomon Korbieh, minister-counselor at Ghana’s U.N. Mission, said the fifth brief extension of the mission’s mandate demonstrated again the Security Council’s failure “to show commitment to the Libyan people.”

He called on council members “to place the overall interests of Libya above all else” and work with the secretary-general to find a new leader for the mission.

U.N. special envoy to Libya Jan Kubis resigned last November 23 after 10 months on the job, and a number of candidates proposed by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been rejected either by council members, Libya or neighboring countries.

After Kubis left, Guterres appointed veteran American diplomat Stephanie Williams, a former U.N. deputy special representative in Libya, as his special adviser. But council diplomats said she is leaving that post Sunday, which means the mission will have no leader as Libyans grapple with a constitutional and political crisis.

“The people of Libya are crying for elections as a basic step towards the rebuilding of their nation and this council cannot let them down,” Korbieh said.