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UNSC: Sweden Starts Presidency with Optimism, but Forgets Libya

Sweden presented the UN Security Council January agenda, mentioning Colombia, Congo, Syria, Somalia... But what about Libya?

Olof Skoog Sweden

Ambassador Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden and President of the Security Council for the month of January, to present the Council’s programme of work (Photo UN)

Sweden's Ambassador Olof Skoog in a press conference says that the Security Council has great responsibility to protect all people of the world, but does not include Libya in its agenda for January meetings. When La Voce asks why, the Swedish diplomat replies: "When there is something to report...” The following day, alarming words came from the Head of the UN Mission in Libya Martin Kobler

On the evening of January 3rd, Ambassador Olof Skoog, Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN and President of the Security Council for the first month of 2017, sat down in front of journalists to present the Council’s program of work for January. Sweden just filled its two year position on the Security Council at the beginning of January after a resounding vote in favor of the Scandinavian country last June from the General Assembly. Italy also began its own term at this time, along with Bolivia, Ethiopia and Kazakhstan. Mr. Skoog, in his opening remarks at the briefing, spoke with great optimism and hope of the great responsibility and privilege that the member states of the Security Council must carry in upholding its position as the “main body” of protection for those experiencing conflict and humanitarian crisis. A member state “cannot just come on the council and protect and defend the national interests” of the country represented, he said in his statement. Skoog also discussed continuing the “trajectory of momentum” that was started with the Council’s recent adoption of two important Middle East resolutions, and set conflict prevention at the center of Council priorities. The January agenda prepared by Sweden will cover topics including the peace process in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria on three tracks: chemical weapons, political, and humanitarian, the Iran nuclear deal, and other situations of concern all over the world.

Where is Libya? La Voce asked Skoog, noticing that the currently volatile country was not mentioned at all in the agenda. The Swedish team appeared a bit flustered as they attempted to confirm this oversight: “You’re right, I don’t think Libya is on, but this is not because we think things are going in the right directions, actually it is the contrary…” So why not Lybia in the agenda? The Swedish Ambassador answered that they would prefer to schedule a meeting about Libya “when there is some political, something to report. That might happen during January or not. It is not a neglect on our side at all, but as I said before when the Council deals with an issue it means that something happened. So it could be tomorrow or in February for Libya”.

In the video below our questions to Ambassador Skoog and his answer (minute 47:35)

The day following the Security Council agenda briefing, Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya Martin Kobler pushed for renewed urgent efforts to find political solutions that will allow for the proper implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement amidst escalating tensions and threat of renewed conflict. This agreement was signed in December 2015, but still has not been fully implemented. Skoog is correct that there has been no sensational occurrence in Libya, but the situation is the same as it has been for a long time now: tense, dangerous, and in need of immediate attention to prevent further conflict, as Skoog has stated is the Security Council’s highest priority.

Skoog also mentioned that on January 10th, there will be an important ministerial-level open debate, “that will deal precisely with conflict resolution and maintenance and sustaining peace” where it is expected that the Secretary General Antonio Guterres will address the Council with his own vision for peace and security focused on prevention. Italy’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs Angelino Alfano will attend this debate to participate and give a speech to council members. It can be assured that when Italy speaks, Libya will not be forgotten.

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