In a bizarre, almost incredible development, the UN Special Envoy to Libya who has spent a year arranging dialogue talks between the two rival Libya governments is suddenly quitting to take a well-paying job with the UAE.
The UAE is a strong supporter of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives( HoR) government and its military chief Khalifa Haftar. The UAE is even suspected with the support of Egypt of bombing Tripoli targeting Libya Dawn forces, the militia which is one of the main military groups supporting the rival General National Congress(GNC) government. The conflict of interest involved is obvious.Leon has accepted a job with the UAE training diplomats and promoting UAE foreign policy. He will be paid 1,000 pounds( $1,540 US) a day. While still the UN Special Envoy working on the dialogue talks, Leon was busy in the summer negotiating a position as director general of a UAE "diplomatic academy." The UAE announced just today, November 4, that Leon had taken the job. Leon will leave his UN job this Friday.Leon denies any conflict of interest and indicated that he made it clear he wanted to leave his UN role by September. Ban ki-Moon just recently extended his contract so that he could complete negotiations and hopefully have the rival governments accept the final draft of the Libya Political Agreement which would result in a unity Government of National Accord. However, neither parliament has approved the draft, indeed they have both made statements that in effect reject it. Neither parliament voted on the draft.Leon said:As recently as October 31 a UN Support MIssion in Libya(UNSMIL) issued this press release:The Guardian saw emails showing Leon was offered the role of director general of the UAE academy back in June. The offer was followed by negotiations regarding increasing his housing allowance. In August he said he would be travelling with his family to settle down in Abu Dhabi. For months Leon knew he would be working for the UAE. On December 31 last year, Leon sent an email to the UAE foreign minister in which he said that because of the slow pace of peace talks that the EU and the US wanted a plan B that would include a classical peace conference.Leon said:.. This is, in my opinion, a worse option than a political dialogue … because it will treat both sides as equal actors”. In other words, Leon does not want to give the GNC government the same status as the internationally-recognized HoR. Sounds very much as if he clearly favors the HoR as does the UAE.He went on to describe what he consequently did "break a very dangerous alliance" between wealthy merchants of Misrata and Islamists that he claims keep the GNC afloat. He said specifically that he wanted to reinforce the HoR the party backed by the UAE and Egypt. He even speaks of having a plan to completely delegitimise the GNC. He goes on to say that he is not working on a political plan that included everybody. Leon says:The UN has now appointed the German diplomat Martin Kobler to take over Leon's job. No doubt he will be taking over as early as Friday when Leon leaves. Kobler will no doubt attempt to restart the dialogue process as soon as he can.
“The only defence I have against these attacks is my work. As I said before, read my proposals, the agreement and the government proposal. It has been considered by the Libyans from both camps as a fair proposal.”There are some on both sides who accept the agreement but neither parliament has approved it and unless that happens, the fact that some on each side approve the agreement is hardly relevant. It is not clear what methods Leon may have used to get support. He and external parties threatened GNC members with sanctions if they did not sign on to an early draft that gave the GNC virtually no power or input into the unity government at all. I wrote at the time that the agreement appeared formulated in such a way that the GNC could not accept the agreement. They did not. They did not participate in the initialing of that draft as the HoR representatives did. Leon continued with the farce of promoting a non-agreement approved by just one side. Some in the international community must have urged him to make some motions toward meeting demands of the GNC. Leon did, making amendments to a draft he insisted could not be amended. This outraged the HoR, which rejected the document. Leon must have pleaded with the HoR. Who knows what threats or promises he made. The HoR representatives then rejoined the talks and finally the LPA was supposed to be agreed to at the level of the representatives at least. However, after refusing to entertain any further amendment as demanded by the GNC, Leon went on to add amendments himself. He has also added further amendments he claims after talking to the parties. The two rival governments are agreed on one thing. They do not trust Leon. Leon praises his work but here is what a group from the GNC had to say:
The Political Committee of GNC held on Monday the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon responsible for the failure of Libyan political dialogue.The Committee said in statement that Bernardino Leon’s persistence to sign the flawed draft would lead to a total collapse of the dialogue."We are surprised at UNSG's support to Bernardino Leon to continue with his post despite his failure to reach a compromise between Libyan parties."
In response to questions concerning the leadership of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the Secretary-General reaffirms that his Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino Leon, remains fully engaged on his behalf in facilitating the Libyan Political Dialogue. The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to reiterate his full confidence in Mr. Leon's efforts, aimed at supporting the Libyans to conclude the political dialogue process and form a Government of National Accord as soon as possible.
“all my movements and proposals have been consulted with [and in many cases designed by] the HOR and [Libya’s ambassador to the UAE] Aref Nayed and [the UAE-based former Libyan prime minister] Mahmud Jibril”.