Experience

Published on November 16th, 2020 | by Brussels In View

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Hostages of Libya: A reason for a diplomatic crisis?

Russia has demanded that the Libyan GNA-Government release its citizens.  Stephanie Williams did not do anything to expedite the liberation of the abducted Russian citizens in Libya,  so now Moscow can block the negotiation process under the auspices of the UN.

The head of the Russian Foundation for the Protection of National Values, Alexander Malkevich, has addressed an open) letter to the head of the Government of National Accord (GNA)of Libya, Fayez Sarraj, to release Russian sociologists Maxim Shugaley and Samer Sweifan. A copy of the letter was sent to Fathi Bashagha, Minister of Internal Affairs of the GNA. Earlier Malkevich addressed a similar request to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Russian citizens were arrested in Libya by the GNA Interior Ministry in May 2019 with the assistance of U.S. intelligence. This was followed by a large-scale involvement of Moscow in the Libyan crisis on the side of the GNA opponent, Khalifa Haftar. The Russian Foreign Ministry states that the release of Russian citizens is the main condition for restoring cooperation with the GNA.

„I I ask you to use all possible influence to ensure that the release of the Russian citizens. I am sure that the release of Russian citizens will be perceived by all international players as a gesture of goodwill on the path of Libyan domestic dialogue and a pledge of the parties’ desire to reach an agreement,“ the Russian letter to the GNA leadership says.

According to Malkevich, who had supervised the activity of the Russians arrested in Libya, Libyan politicians promised to release Russian citizens after the end of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) in Tunisia. However, they did not fulfill their promise. Malkevich also asked the organizer of the forum, Acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Libya Stephanie Williams, to help with the release of Russian citizens.

According to Malkevich, he asked Ms. Williams to use all possible influence so that the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which has been held in Tunisia under the auspices of the UN for the last week, would consider the release of Russian citizens as one of the conditions for continuing political dialogue in Libya.

Williams, however, did not respond in any way to that appeal, and the forum ended without even taking decisions on the key issue: the composition and powers of the interim joint authorities in Libya.

The day before Stephanie Williams told about the results of the week-long forum in Libya. According to her, the parties agreed to hold elections in December 2021. However, no final agreed documents were made available to the public.

Experts assess the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum as a failed initiative of Williams herself. The issue of replacing her as head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has long been raised. The Forum has been criticized for its lack of transparency, arbitrary selection of candidates by UNSMIL and attempts to bribe participants. Instead of promoting real dialogue between the opposing parties in Libya, UNSMIL tried to simulate the negotiation process and impose ready-made solutions on Libyans.

„The forum was unable to reach a single decision on the future of Libya. One of the reasons for the lack of Libyan domestic dialogue is that the parties have demonstrated no political will for agreement and compromise. I believe that a good symbol of the Libyans’ desire to reach an agreement among themselves can be the early release of foreign citizens held in Libya, in particular Russian citizens, without additional conditions“, – Alexander Malkevich said. Malkevich also reminds, that Russia may use its power in the UN „including the right to veto the UN Security Council resolutions on Libya, to save Russian citizens”.

With all the UNSMIL failures at the Tunis forum, the GNA’s refusal to release Russian citizens may finally stall the political dialogue process in Libya.

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