The size of the UN mission in Libya should be reduced “substantially” amid the deteriorating security situation in the country, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday.
In his latest report on Libya that circulated Tuesday, the UN chief recommended the mission’s operations in Libya be conducted by a rotation of 15 to 20 substantive staff while keeping a temporary headquarters in neighboring Tunisia “until the circumstances become more auspicious.”
The UN Support Mission for Libya, also known as UNSMIL, was established in 2011 following six months of uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi.
The North African country has seen growing instability since that year, with an armed conflict having yielded two rival seats of government, each with its own institutions, in Tripoli and Tobruk.
The constant fighting and political crisis also paved the way for extremist movements such as Daesh to gain a foothold in the country. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Ban stressed that his recommendation to cut the size of the mission “does not mean the United Nations is disengaging from Libya.”
He said the full return of the UN to Libya was not recommended at this stage, because “the logistical and security resources required for the organization to be able to operate from secured premises and move around safely render a full return unrealistic until conditions change.”
Militants affiliated with Daesh in Libya released a video last week apparently showing the mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. In response, the Egyptian army carried out a series of airstrikes against Daesh targets in eastern Libya.
While Libya’s internationally-recognized Tobruk-based government and Egypt urged the UN to lift an arms embargo on Libya so that its forces could combat Daesh, Ban pointed to political dialogue as the solution to the conflict.