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After Four Months, UN Security Council Approves the New Libyan Envoy

The United Nations Security Council approved the appointment of Ghassan Salame as the new U.N. envoy to Libya

Ghassan Salame, newly appointed Special Envoy of Libya, in a panel discussion on the sixtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

After multiple rejections of previous appointees to take the position as Special Envoy of Libya, the UN Security Council finally approved a candidate. Ghassan Salame, former Lebanese Minister of Culture, will replace Martin Kobler, the German diplomat who served as UN envoy since November 2015.

The United Nations Security Council finally approved the appointment of Ghassan Salamé, former Lebanese Minister of Culture, as the new UN envoy for Libya on Tuesday, ending an unusually contentious four-month search to replace German diplomat, Martin Kobler, who served as UN envoy since November 2015.

It is customary for the Council to agree by consensus on the appointment of special envoys. Traditionally, the UN Secretary General discusses candidates informally with the 15-member body to ensure a holistic agreement before officially proposing a name.

However, many diplomats found it strange when the U.S. rejected UN Secretary General Guterres’s first nominee, former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, after he proposed the name. U.S. Ambassador, Nikki Haley, rejected the first nominee due to his nationality and commented that the UN had been, “unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority, which is detrimental to our allies in Israel.” Earlier this month, Haley even accused the UN of being “bullies” towards Israel when it is the only country whose human rights record is a permanent item on the UN Human Rights Council’s agenda. Guterres described the U.S.’s rejection as “a loss for the Libyan peace process and for the Libyan people.”

Following the U.S.’s objection, diplomats confirmed that Russia and other council members followed a similar suit by rejecting a British candidate and an American candidate, so Kobler’s position was briefly extended until the end of June.

“Over 20 people were approached and  either ruled themselves out or they were ruled out by one of the Security Council members,” said a senior council diplomat.

Currently, Libya is facing multiple challenges  such as human trafficking, smuggling of not only weapons, but also crude oil and other related products, which is exacerbating the volatile situation in the country. Italy, the closest European country to Libya, is supporting any initiative that ensures the stability of the country, since it is the most common departure point for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea.

Mr. Fayyad brings over three decades of experience in public service and academia to his position.  In 2003, Mr. Salamé served as the Political Adviser to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), where he played a crucial role in bringing together Iraqi factions.  He was then appointed as Senior Adviser to the Secretary-General (2003-2007, 2012).  In 2016, he joined the Commission on the Rakhine State (Myanmar) chaired by Kofi Annan. For most of his career, Mr. Salamé was a professor of international relations at Sciences-Po (Paris) and he is the founding Dean of its Paris School of International Affairs. Hopefully his experience will help spur productive solutions in order to mitigate some chaos in this war-torn country.   

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