UN mediation in Libya is not as effective as one might wish. In addition to the already complex situation in Libya, there are the disagreements between the major powers involved in the negotiations for the extension of the UN mission and the changes that the country, still led by Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibé, must adopt. The motion of censure approved by parliament and subsequently rejected by the High Council of State jeopardises the elections scheduled for 24 December, which should mark the definitive step towards full democracy.
The agreement to extend the negotiations has come about in extremis, as the deadline expired yesterday, after the extension that was obtained at the beginning of September. At the time it was hoped that the extension could be more productive than it has turned out to be. The problem is that there are major differences within the UN Security Council. Two of them, moreover, have the power of veto, namely Russia and the UK, which is primarily responsible for the Libyan dossier in the Council.
The British ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said that "it has been a tough negotiation", and expressed her dissatisfaction that "one member state could not join the consensus" reached by the rest of the countries. Moscow was not in favour of accepting a draft that stipulated the withdrawal of all foreign troops and mercenaries from Libyan territory, as the United Nations has been requesting for months without success. Nor did they want to include the arms embargo that is now - or at least should be - maintained throughout the country, so they presented an alternative text at the last minute.
The Forum for Political Dialogue in Libya (FPLD) - a body created 'ad hoc' to elect Libyan leaders who would carry out the transition - was an important step in the country's situation that allowed for a new Presidential Council and a new government that is currently shaky due to the motion of censure passed in parliament. The Dbeiba-led executive had no other objective than to unify the decisions taken in Tripoli and Tobruk, which do not recognise each other and are embroiled in constant conflict, and to lead to the elections on Friday 24 December.
With a view to these elections, UN countries agreed that a change in the mandate of UNSMIL (the UN mission in Libya) was necessary. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had made a number of proposals to improve the situation. One of them, which is planned to be implemented once election day takes place, is to install an envoy of the organisation in Tripoli with the aim of making it easier for him to work with the parties, as previous envoys have always worked from outside the country.
However, the main concern remains in the short term as the agreement for the new mandate is far from straightforward. The unanimous approval of an unchanged extension of the mission only provides time that will be worthless if the parties cannot find a common ground that allows Libya to make a peaceful transition and rid its territory of foreign troops and mercenaries. Dissatisfaction in the vast majority of countries is widespread. The US is disappointed with Russia's position, which is forcing it to delay much-needed American changes until after the December elections.