German diplomat Martin Kobler will soon replace Bernardino Leon in Libya

A veteran diplomat from Germany, Martin Kobler, will face the daunting task of taking over the peace talks from former UN Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, who is leaving his post on Friday.
Leon accepted a position to be head of a diplomatic academy in the UAE. He will be paid about $1,540 US per day. The UAE is a strong supporter of the internationally-recognized HoR government and of General Khalifa Haftar the commander of the HoR armed forces. The UAE is even suspected of bombing Tripoli on his behalf. Apparently, Leon had been offered the position back in June and was busy during the summer attempting to negotiate better terms. All this time he was supposed to be a neutral facilitator of the Libyan dialogue. Surely the UN should have known what was going on and demand that Leon step down immediately.
The UN had recently extended Leon's mandate so he could try to conclude negotiations on the Libyan Political Agreement. Neither the HoR nor the rival General National Congress(GNC) government in Tripoli had approved the agreement or its associated Government of National Accord. Indeed statements have been issued by both groups rejecting it although no vote was ever taken.
As recently as October 31 the United Nations Support Mission in LIbya(UNSMIL) issued a press statement saying: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.
On Wednesday, the UAE announced the appointment of Leon as head of the academy. The timing is interesting. The UAE authorities must have known that this would make Leon's role at the UN impossible to maintain.  A recent UNSMIL news release says: Mr. Kobler will succeed Bernardino León of Spain, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service and effective leadership of UNSMIL. The leadership transition will take place in the coming days.
The release does not say why Leon is leaving when a few days ago he had the full support of Ban ki-Moon and had his term extended. The most significant facts are usually left out in UNSMIL press releases. This is part of what I call the "non-speak" protocol.
Kobler will no doubt try to restart dialogue talks soon. Perhaps he will try to push through the Libya Political Agreement Leon had drafted, or at least use it as a basis for negotiations with further amendments. Alternatively, he may think it best to start anew for the most part. The chief negotiator for the GNC, Awad Abdulsadek said that Leon's taking the UAE job showed the negotiations were biased against the GNC and so Kobler should start from scratch:"The replacement of Leon should start all over again, now we know Leon was biased in favor of one of the sides."Abdulsadek said the GNC would require that the present commander in chief of the HoR armed forces not be part of the military of the new Government of National Accord. This requirement is unlikely to be agreed to by the HoR. If the HoR agreed to that it would in all probability be the target of a military coup. The HoR ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi told the UN Security Council: "The formation of a government of national accord is imminent, perhaps even before the end of the month." That is the type of statement that Leon made many times. Dabbashi is a good diplomat who says what his audience wants to hear. Maybe he is angling for a job at the UAE academy too.
UN guidance on effective mediation says mediators should "not accept conditions for support from external actors that would affect the impartiality of the process." They should also "hand over to another mediator, or mediating entity, if they feel unable to maintain a balanced and impartial approach." Obviously Leon thought he was quite impartial in spite of emails in which he claims he was deliberately working to strengthen the HoR. At one stage in the dialogue process Leon actually carried on the process and had the HoR initial an agreement without the GNC even participating because they rejected the agreement. His record speaks for itself as Leon said in defending himself. He several times amended drafts he said could not be amended to the annoyance of both the rival parties. He set deadlines numerous times and did nothing when they were missed. He used pressure tactics and the threat of sanctions against those who opposed his draft agreements. I could go on for pages but this article is long enough already.


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