UN Special Envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame announced earlier this week, surprisingly, he was resigning after nearly 3 years in his thankless position. While the official reason sited was “health concerns”, this was clearly influenced by unending stress and frustration from both sides of the conflict constantly violating the ceasefire reached just weeks ago. The bombing and shelling over the weekend may have been the proverbial straw that broke Salame’s back.
Despite not reaching a concrete achievement, we should not overlook that Salame managed to spark a positive process. The Berlin Conference in January was followed by two meetings of the 5+5 military dialogue, three meetings of the economic dialogue which was far more successful and one less successful meeting of the political dialogue track.
The ceasefire, brokered by Turkey and Russia earlier in January, however, is strained, especially after the high casualties on both sides over the weekend.
The big question now – will all this survive Salame’s resignation? Will his departure collapse the shaky platform built up over the last month? The UN, Europeans, US and especially the regional powers must ensure that this framework holds together while the UN nominates a replacement, and fast. Turkey must press the GNA to hold fire, while the UAE and Russia must press on Haftar to do the same. Salame’s departure is a serious blow for sure. But it doesn’t have to be a death knell to the positive political process that still needs a chance.