Russia blocks extension of UN mission to Libya, diplomatic sources say

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Russia has blocked the Security Council over the one-year renewal of the United Nations political mission in Libya, threatening international unity ahead of the December 24 presidential elections, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.

Moscow, which has veto power, did not approve the text in a British-drafted resolution on the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya, as well as the role of the UN envoy to the North African country, the sources said.

The UN mission’s mandate expires Wednesday night, and the Security Council planned to vote in the morning on a simple “technical renewal” until the end of the month to “solve problems” by then, said a diplomat who spoke with the condition of anonymity.

When asked, the Russian diplomatic mission to the UN declined to comment, citing ongoing negotiations.

During the latest Security Council debate on Libya, Russia insisted that any withdrawal of foreign troops must be managed so as not to jeopardize the balance of power in the country.

Libya was hit by violence and political unrest in the wake of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

In recent years, the oil-rich country has been divided between two rival administrations backed by foreign powers and a myriad of militias. The strongman from the east, Khalifa Haftar, was backed by Russia.

After Haftar’s forces were driven out of the west of the country last year, the two camps signed a ceasefire in Geneva in October.

An interim administration was established in March this year to prepare for the December 24 presidential and parliamentary elections.

But divisions quickly resurfaced, raising concerns about the advancement of the elections.

In a recent report, the United Nations also recommended that only one person lead its mission in the country.

In 2020, the United States imposed dual leadership, against the advice of the other 14 members of the Security Council: an emissary in Geneva, the Slovak Jan Kubis, and a coordinator based in the Libyan capital, the Zimbabwean Raisedon Zenenga.

The UN recommends having a single emissary based in Tripoli, as was the case in the past.

(AFP)