Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov has told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres he will be unable to take up the role as United Nations Libya envoy next year due to “personal and family reasons,” a UN spokesman said on Tuesday (22 December).
Mladenov has been the UN Middle East envoy since 2015, charged with mediating between Israel and the Palestinians; a mission which now takes on special significance following the signing of the Abraham Accords whereby several Arab countries have established diplomatic ties with the Israeli state, under the auspices of the United States. Mladenov recently said goodbye to his post as United Nations envoy to the Middle East, hoping that the problem would be solved and urging the Palestinian and Israeli leaders to work together to "return to the path of negotiations". "The conflict between the two sides has gone on for too long now," said the Bulgarian diplomat.
Last week, UN Security Council approved Guterres' proposal to appoint Mladenov as Libya's mediator and Norwegian Tor Wennesland to succeed Mladenov as Middle East envoy. But now the Bulgarian politician is resigning from his new post for personal reasons.
Mladenov told Guterres on Monday that when his current role as Middle East envoy ends on December 31 he will resign from the United Nations and "will not be able to take up the post of special envoy for Libya... for personal and family reasons", as UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric acknowledged to several journalists.
Libya's acting envoy, Stephanie Williams, will continue in the post, Dujarric said. Mladenov was due to replace Ghassan Salame, who resigned as UN envoy to Libya in March due to stress.
This is a setback for the diplomatic mission in Libya, a country that has been suffering a bloody civil war since 2014 and is facing the Government of National Accord of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, based in Tripoli, against the other eastern executive of Tobruk allied with the Libyan National Army of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, in a scenario generated after the overthrow of Muammar al-Qadhafi in 2011.
Libya has become a stage for the play of political interests involving several foreign powers interested in the geostrategic position of the North African nation and its oil resources. The Tripolitan government receives military support from Turkey and financial support from Qatar, in addition to being recognised by the UN since 2016 and supported by Italy; meanwhile, the Haftar National Army receives support from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt (Qatar's international rivals), France and Russia.
The UN has always tried to get the mercenaries fighting on Libyan territory to leave. Especially those sent by Turkey, which include paid fighters from Syria attached to groups linked in the past to terrorist organisations such as Daesh or al-Qaeda, as various analysts have pointed out; and those sent by Russia within the private company Wagner, which serves the interests of the Russian Kremlin.
Last October the two main sides in the conflict, the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army, agreed on a ceasefire. And subsequently talks were held by political and military representatives of both factions in Switzerland, Egypt, Morocco and Libya itself to bring their positions closer and reach agreements on institutional organisation and the reactivation of activities such as energy. These talks partly calmed the situation and helped lay the foundations for a future peace, although the confrontation continues.