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UN: Mladenov turns down offer to lead UN mission in Libya

Nickolay Mladenov cited personal and family reasons for not taking the role [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 December, 2020

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Nickolay Mladenov, who will be stepping down as Middle East peace envoy, has decided not to replace Ghassan Salame as head of UN mission in Libya.
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, has turned down an offer to lead the UN mission in conflict-stricken Libya, according to a UN spokesman.

Mladenov told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday that he would not take up the position of special envoy for the North African country “for personal and family reasons,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.

Mladenov’s term as Middle East peace envoy is set to expire at the end of the year and he'll be replaced by Norway’s Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, according to the UN secretary-general.

Mladenov was appointed as the UN special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process in early 2015. Before that, he was the top UN envoy in Iraq, and had served as Bulgaria’s foreign minister from 2010 to 2013 and in the European Parliament from 2007 to 2009.

He took the job a few months after the end of the deadliest, most destructive war between Israel and the militant Hamas group in the Palestinian enclave of the Gaza Strip.

In recent years, Mladenov, alongside other mediators from Egypt and Qatar, played a significant role defusing numerous rounds of cross-border violence that threatened another war between Israel and Hamas.

He was to replace Ghassan Salame, the former UN envoy for Libya, who resigned in March amid fierce fighting between Libya’s rival sides over the capital, Tripoli.

UN acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams will continue leading the mission in Libya, and the UN would continue the search for Salame's replacement, said the UN spokesman.

There were objections to two previous suggestions, and the US then insisted the job be split between a special envoy handling the diplomacy and someone to run the UN operation.

Read more: Divided Europe: How the West lost influence in Libya's war

The African group in the Security Council had wanted an African in the diplomatic job, but agreed to the second spot running the operation. The UN announced the appointment on Wednesday of Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe as assistant secretary-general and mission coordinator of the UN support mission in Libya.

Libya was plunged into chaos after the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The oil-rich country is now split between a UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. The two sides are backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

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