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Diplomats: UN Lebanon envoy Jan Kubis to head Libya mission

Jan Kubis is the current UN envoy in Lebanon [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 January, 2021

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Diplomats say the former Slovak foreign minister will replace Ghassan Salame in the post, which has been vacant for nearly a year.
The UN Security Council has given a green light for former Slovak Foreign Minister Jan Kubis, the current UN envoy in Lebanon, to lead the UN political mission in conflict-stricken Libya, a post that has been vacant for nearly a year, diplomats said on Friday night.

The council had until 5 p.m. EST to object to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' selection of the veteran diplomat, who previously served as the top UN envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, but diplomats said there were no objections. They spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of an official UN announcement.

Kubis will replace Ghassan Salame who resigned last March amid fierce fighting between Libya's rival sides over the capital, Tripoli.

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi and split the country between the UN-supported government in the capital, Tripoli, and rival authorities based in the east. Each side is backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

Since last year, the two sides have been holding UN-led talks to name an interim government before elections later in 2021, but they have so far failed to agree on a voting mechanism.

Acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams has drawn widespread praise for her handling of those talks. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday. The UN mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, reported "significant progress" in talks currently under way in Geneva.

The Libya post had been expected to go to Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, but in late December he turned down the offer for personal and family reasons.

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.

The African group in the United Nations had wanted an African in the diplomatic job, but agreed to the second spot running the operation. The UN announced the appointment last month of Raisedon Zenenga of Zimbabwe as assistant secretary-general and coordinator of UNSMIL.

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