The United States wants to split the role previously held by Ghassan Salame to have one person run the UN mission –– known as UNSMIL –– and another person focus on mediating peace in Libya, diplomats have said.

Ghassan Salame stepped down from his position as the UN Libya envoy in March 2020 after his last effort at peacemaking in the war-torn country failed. February 18, 2020.
Ghassan Salame stepped down from his position as the UN Libya envoy in March 2020 after his last effort at peacemaking in the war-torn country failed. February 18, 2020. (AFP)

Germany has asked the United States to stop preventing United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres from naming a new UN Libya envoy to replace Ghassan Salame who quit nearly five months ago.

Salame, who headed the UN political mission and was charged with trying to mediate peace, quit because of stress after his last effort at peacemaking in the war-torn, oil producing country failed. Salame announced his resignation in March nearly three years after taking up the post.

The United States now wants to split the role to have one person run the UN mission –– known as UNSMIL –– and another person focus on mediating peace in Libya, diplomats said.

"There have been questions raised by our US partners with regard to the structure of UNSMIL. We believe that, yes, you can discuss that, but ... the US shouldn't stop the Secretary-General nominating a successor to Ghassan Salame," Germany's U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said on Thursday.

The UN Security Council traditionally greenlights such appointments by consensus, but some of the 15 members are not in favour of the US proposal to split the role, diplomats said.

Guterres has suggested former Ghana foreign minister and current UN envoy to the African Union, Hanna Tetteh, replace Salame and Washington has said it can support her nomination after Guterres appoints a special mediator, diplomats said.

The United States had proposed former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt to be special envoy, but diplomats said she had withdrawn herself and Washington is now looking for a new candidate.

Proxy wars

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Since 2014, it has been split, with an internationally recognised government controlling the capital Tripoli and the northwest, while warlord Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi rules the east.

Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the government is backed by Turkey. Guterres has warned that there were "unprecedented levels" of foreign interference and mercenaries in the oil-producing country.

Salame early in July said he had felt "irrelevant" and "stabbed in the back by most of the Security Council members because, the day he attacked Tripoli, Haftar had most of them supporting him."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies