Photo: Reuters

New UN envoys to mediate Mideast, Libya conflicts

The United Nations Security Council has approved Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposal to appoint Norwegian Tor Wennesland as the U.N.’s new Middle East envoy, while his predecessor Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov will next serve as the U.N. Libya special envoy.

Wennesland is a veteran diplomat with years of expertise in the region, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The 68-year-old was involved in the Olso Accords. He has long been viewed by Jerusalem as a reliable and trustworthy negotiator, who has also helped broker several ceasefire truces with the Hamas rulers of Gaza. in his current role as the Scandinavian nation’s special envoy on the Middle East peace process, Wennesland was charged with allocation of major Norwegian financial backing to the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinians seek to establish a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. They have rejected the United States peace proposal to resolve the dispute with Israel, which considers Jerusalem as its undivided capital and refers to the West Bank as the biblical Judea and Samaria homeland of the Jewish People.

Mladenov, who has spent the past five years as the UN mediator between Israel and the Palestinians. will be replacing Ghassan Salame in Libya, who stepped down from the post in March due to stress.

The appointments end months of disagreement among UNSC members over pressure by Washington to divide the Libya role into two: with one envoy charged with operating the UN political mission while the other concentrated on conflict mediation. While the council agreed to the US proposal last September, Russia and China abstained from endorsing the move.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed ousting of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. After intensive battle, the two major sides in the country’s war – the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) – agreed a ceasefire in October.

“The members of the Security Council underlined the importance of a credible and effective Libyan-led Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism and looked forward to a comprehensive report by the Secretary-General on the proposals for effective ceasefire monitoring under the auspices of the United Nations,” declared the 15-member body said in a statement on Tuesday.

The UNSC also reiterated its call for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya.