UN Libya envoy quits weeks before planned election

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The resignation of UN Special Envoy Jan Kubis was accepted a month ahead of the scheduled presidential election in Libya.

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UN Libyan mediator Jan Kubis is stepping down, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday, less than a year after he assumed the role and a month before the country’s planned elections.

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres accepted Kubis’ resignation “with regret”, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday. Asked when Kubis would leave, Dujarric said: “Mr. Kubis has made it clear that he is not slamming the door today.”

“That, more than anyone, doesn’t want to destabilize the mission in any way, shape or form,” he said.

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“The secretary general is working on a suitable replacement. We are fully aware of the election calendar and are working as quickly as possible to ensure continuity of leadership,” Dujarric said.

The United Nations is informally suggesting veteran British diplomat Nicholas Kay as a replacement, Reuters news agency reported, citing diplomats. A unanimously-run 15-member UN Security Council will have to approve a new appointment.

Kubis is a former Slovak Foreign Minister who has also served as the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon and the United Nations Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Iraq. The Security Council approved his appointment as Libya’s mediator in January, following Ghassan Salame, who stepped down in March 2020 due to tensions.

It was not immediately clear why Kubis was stepping down. Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bay, reporting from the UN building in New York, said UN officials and Security Council diplomats were surprised that he was leaving at the time.

“The fact that he is leaving a month before the election really raises a lot of questions. Despite I repeatedly pressuring the United Nations to elaborate on the reasons for that, we are not being given any reasons,” Baez said.

“The only thing I have been told by some diplomats is that Kubis is not in perfect health and happy enough to work in Geneva but may not be fit enough to take a job in Tripoli.”

Kubis is based in Geneva, and according to Bey, the United Nations was planning to find a new envoy to be based in Tripoli.

Libya plunged into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. In October last year, the two major sides in the Libyan war – the nationally recognized government and the eastern-based Libyan National Army of renegade commander Khalifa Haftar – agreed to a ceasefire.

Parliamentary and presidential elections on December 24 were demanded by the United Nations political forum last year as part of a roadmap to end the Libyan civil war. However, disputes over the planned vote threaten to derail the peace process.

About 100 candidates have registered to take part in Libya’s presidential elections, including Haftar, transitional prime minister Abdul Hamid Dabeba and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Within a few days, a preliminary list of candidates is expected to be announced. After that, the commission will start a two-stage appeals process that will take 12 days before the final list of candidates is published, Imad al-Sayeh, the head of the Higher National Election Commission, told reporters.

The first round of presidential elections is scheduled to be held on December 24 and parliamentary elections have been extended to January or February. However, the rules of the election have not yet been agreed upon.

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