- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 16, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - African members of the Security Council tried unsuccessfully Wednesday to appoint a joint African Union-United Nations envoy for conflict-torn Libya, in an apparent attempt to replace current U.N. envoy Ghassan Salame.

South Africa, Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea were following up on decisions by the AU High Level Committee on Libya on July 8 and the AU Peace and Security Council on Sept. 27 in New York calling for a joint envoy.

Diplomats said the Africans raised the issue during closed consultations Wednesday, but there was no support in the 15-member council, with several members saying it wasn’t the time to “change horses in midstream.”

A civil war in Libya in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was later killed. In the chaos that followed, the country was divided, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Hifter launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections in the oil-rich North African country.

His force is the largest and best organized of the country’s many militias and enjoys the support of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. But it has faced stiff resistance from fighters aligned with the U.N.-recognized government, which is aided by Turkey and Qatar.

Salame told the council last month he had launched “an intensive campaign” for an international conference to deliver a message that Hifter’s offensive must end.

A conference had been scheduled in Berlin in October to try to persuade countries to enforce an arms embargo and stop supplying weapons to the warring parties and move toward a political settlement and elections, but it has reportedly been postponed.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because the council discussions were private, said many Security Council members said they need to focus on implementing Salame’s plan and the Berlin conference.

According to the diplomats, members said the Security Council should work closely with the AU, and they would think about the joint envoy in the future.

The three African nations drafted a proposed Security Council statement that wasn’t issued.

According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the draft expresses “deep concern over the security situation in Libya and the risk of a dangerous military escalation.”

It also calls for compliance with the arms embargo and condemns “continued external interferences that are exacerbating the already volatile situation on the ground.”

The draft statement further says the Libya situation has “dangerous repercussions” for regional and African security and acknowledges the need for enhanced AU-U.N. collaboration “in the search for a lasting political solution to the crisis in Libya.”

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