The UN representative for Libya, Ghassan Salame, resigns. The Lebanese diplomat announced on Twitter that he was no longer up to the stress. The Office of the UN General Secretariat confirmed the announcement, which was completely surprising to the Libyan public.
“I have tried for over two years to bring the Libyans back together, stop foreign interference and ensure the unity of the country,” wrote Salame.
Last year, 69-year-old Angela Merkel asked to actively participate in the peace efforts for Libya. The “Berlin Process” designed by German diplomats finally led to a Libya conference in Berlin in January 2020, at which numerous countries approved a 51-point plan to pacify Libya, which has become almost nothing.
Salame took over the leadership of the UN support mission for Libya (Unsmil) from German diplomat Martin Kobler in July 2017. Both of them united in initiating a peace process with a high level of personal commitment, but not finishing it. Under Kobler, the acting Libyan unity government was launched by Prime Minister Fajis Sarradsch in the capital Tripoli.
At least since the current conflict in Libya, in which renegade General Khalifa Haftar has brought large parts of the country under his control, it has become clear what the Libyan warring parties believe in: a military solution to the Libya conflict.
The UN mission appears to be just as powerless as the Sarraj government in Tripoli, which is internationally recognized, but in fact, does not even control Tripoli. Like Sarradsch, Salame and its more than 300 UN employees are dependent on the goodwill of the militias when they travel through the Libyan capital.
Despite the current UN arms embargo and the Berlin resolutions, arming on both sides of the front has never been possible. Salame, after all, complained that the international partners of the Libyan warring parties were duplicate louder than many others.
Most recently, his mission had led the so-called “5 plus 5” talks in Geneva, which was to bring officers of the Libyan National Army (LNA) from Haftar and the western Libyan city militias allied with the unitary government to one table. The first two rounds took place, but in separate rooms; The delegations were not yet ready for personal meetings. Prime Minister Sarradsch finally suspended his delegation’s participation after repeated LNA rocket attacks on Tripoli airport.
Libya is more divided than ever
With the current military escalation, the Berlin process is also at risk. Because without a written armistice, a peace conference, as envisaged in Berlin, would seem impossible. Politicians, tribal elders, activists or officers are branded traitors in Libya if they make moderate statements about the opposite side. Libya has never been more divided than it is now.
Salame was respected in Libya; As a former Lebanese Minister of Culture, he often found the right address and, as a member of the Greek Catholic minority, he often set the right tone, because Libya’s power struggle is also about regional and minority rights.
But Salame lacked international support from the international community for a peace conference. The Gulf States, Russia, Turkey, France, and Italy have turned the dispute over Africa’s largest oil and gas reserves into a proxy war for power in Libya.
Hours before Salame, together with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, wanted to announce a peace conference in Tripoli on April 4, 2019, Haftar launched his offensive on the capital. Eleven months later, Ghassan Salame took the consequences of his impotence.