By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 13 November 2015:
The leaking of emails that appear to show that the UAE was busting the UN arms . . .[restrict]embargo by supplying weapons to the Libya government, has further embarrassed outgoing UNSMIL chief Bernardino Leon.
Already widely criticised for negotiating a $50,000 a month job in the UAE as early as last December, even while he was brokering the Peace Accord, Leon said yesterday “ I have decided to request full clarification of the issue, including from the United Arab Emirate authorities, as I take time to reflect on the next step in my professional career”.
The New York Times added to the revelations about Leon’s new job at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy in the UK’s Guardian newspaper by reporting leaked emails in which its seemed clear that Washington knew of and was warning the UAE off further weapons shipments to the Libyan armed forces.
However, even though he appeared to be admitting that the issue over his relations with the UAE had presented him with difficulties, Leon still queried the latest material in the NYT.
“Given the inaccurate or false information we have seen in previous months” he said in a statement issued by UNSMIL, “regarding the process in Libya and the UN and my role, I believe it is imperative to be extremely cautious about the most recent reports”.
Leon insisted that he thought nothing was more important than full compliance with UN resolutions. He continued: “The reports in the media are allegations that have not been verified. The authorities and government of the UAE have the right and deserve the opportunity to clarify them, as I am confident they will do”.
The UAE arms supply allegation appeared to surprise him.
“During the last year, I have worked very closely with the most senior officials of countries previously alleged to have been involved in the Libyan conflict” he said, adding that he had been convinced “that countries such as the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and Egypt have consistently supported UN peace efforts, and that their leaderships understood that the only option for Libya is the agreement and unity government elaborated with many Libyan actors and proposed recently”.
He said that as UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s special representative, “my work in the last year has been to build trust and lay bridges between the parties in the conflict and articulate a sustainable political solution, through consensus and inclusion, in order to restore governance and peaceful coexistence in the country”.
The NYT said it had been given emails by a whistleblower which showed that the UAE was shipping weapons to “favored belligerents” in Libya throughout this summer, at the same time that it was offering Leon a highly-paid job.
It quoted one email from senior UAE diplomat Ahmed Al-Qasimi to the Emirates’ UN ambassador Lana Nusseibeh in which Qasimi wrote: “The fact of the matter is that the U.A.E violated the UN Security Council Resolution on Libya and continues to do so”.
The emails appear to show that the UAE weapons shipment policy came from “head of state level” and included discussions on how to hide the consignments from a UN monitoring panel.
There had been a belief that the UN had not known of Leon’s new job until the Guardian broke the story. This seemed to be borne out by the curt note of thanks that Ban Ki-Moon offered when he announced the appointment of Martin Kobler as Leon’s replacement.
However in an email dated 27 August, the UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, a former US diplomat, wrote to the UAE asking them to allow Leon to stay on for a few more weeks because the signing of the Political Accord seemed imminent.
Feltman said that if necessary, “ I could ask the secretary general to call you to make the request”.
The NYT also quoted an email sent on 6 September by Leon to an unnamed senior UAE official saying “I am flying for 24 hours to Abud Dhabi. Tomorrow I will work with EDA (Emirates Diplomatic Academy) colleagues and will be as always at your disposal should you need anything from me”. [/restrict]