German diplomat Martin Kobler has been appointed by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to succeed Bernardino Leon as the special envoy to Libya, where rival factions have been clashing for power ever since former leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed in October 2011.
The north African nation has been largely divided between two parliaments in the capital Tripoli, known as the General National Congress [GNC], and the House of Representatives [HoR] in the eastern city of Tobruk. Each parliament is backed by its own militia.
The ongoing power-struggle between the two parliaments has disrupted Libya’s oil production and allowed refugees to take advantage of the security vacuum in the country to use it as a departure point from which they attempt to make the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
As a result, hundreds have died drowning in the Mediterranean, while hundreds of thousands have successfully made it across, contributing to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.
Hardline groups such as DAESH have also managed to gain a foothold in the country, threatening not only security in Libya but also neighbouring European countries across the sea.
Talks to end the deadlock between the two rival parliaments have been continuous, but delegates from the GNC have thus far rejected the UN’s call for unity as they seek more amendments to the proposed deal. The HoR also rejected the proposal because the US failed to exclude the extra amendments demanded by the GNC.
Both the HoR and the GNC criticised outgoing envoy Leon for announcing candidates for a proposed unity government on Oct. 8 before the two parliaments had agreed to establish one.
Leon’s replacement, 62-year-old Kobler, previously served as a UN special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC] and German ambassador to Iraq and Egypt. He was informed of his new deployment by letter on Wednesday, the Agence France Presse news agency reported.
The German diplomat also led UN peacekeeping mission MONUSCO for two years and served as a chief of staff to Germany's ex-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. Before being sent to DRC, he had been stationed by the UN as a deputy envoy in Afghanistan in 2010, as well as a special representative in Iraq between 2011 and 2013.
His deployment will be officially announced following the expiry of an objection period extended to the 15-member UN Security Council on Friday.