Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended a conference on Libya with Ghassan Salame hosted by Boris Johnson in London

September 14, 2017

Following his recent diplomatic tour in Libya, British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, held a conference on Thursday to discuss the ways to break Libya’s political stalemate and give impetus to U.N. mediation efforts.  The discussion at London's Lancaster House included US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, UN Special Envoy Ghassan Salame, as well as the foreign ministers of France, Italy, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. It does seem that the majority of Tillerson’s time was spent in bilateral discussion of Iran and North Korea, but that Libya was discussed and that the allies had a meeting of minds. Crucially, all sides agreed that a coherent political process must precede elections.

Tillerson told U.S. Embassy staff before the talks that the goal was to “knot their peace process together” and “put Libya back together.” Brian Hook, State Department director of policy planning, said that “The US wants new energy and focus to mediation efforts led by the United Nations,” and despite the divisions there is broad agreement on the need to prepare for 2018 elections, and to finalize a constitution. He added that the “big goal” is to avoid factions resorting to military action to shortcut the political process. These statements present a more active stance on behalf of the US in regard to the Libya crisis. Nevertheless, it also demonstrates America’s desire to stand behind the UN efforts rather than take a leading role in the process. In fact, the main purpose of the meetings was to get everyone together and on the same page prior to UNGA so that a major declaration on Libya can be made around Sept 20.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council extended on Thursday for one year the mandate of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), focused on supporting the North African country’s political process and key national institutions, as well as coordination of international assistance.