Russia Derails Appointment of Former White House Aide as UN Libya Envoy
Foreign Policy reports that after the Trump administration vetoed the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the next UN Special Envoy to Libya to replace Martin Kobler, who steps down this month, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had reportedly decided to instead appoint Richard Wilcox, a senior official at the World Food Programme who served as director of U.N. affairs in the Clinton White House and is a dual American-German national. However, reports indicate that before an official offer was made, Russia said it had concerns about Wilcox’s fitness for the job.
It remains unclear precisely why Russia objected to the candidacy of Wilcox, and the Russian mission to the U.N. did not respond to a request for comment. But two sources familiar with the matter said that Moscow said he didn’t have the right profile, or have sufficient stature, for a job that was previously held by senior foreign diplomats, including Martin Kobler, a former German ambassador to Egypt and Iraq, and Bernardino León, a former Spanish diplomat who left the job in disgrace. While in the midst of negotiations on a power-sharing arrangement in Libya, León was in talks with the UAE on a lucrative arrangement to lead the Gulf country’s diplomatic academy.
In New York and Washington, diplomats were left mostly left to speculate, with one senior U.N. based official suggesting Russia likely objected to the U.N. hiring another top envoy that they perceive as too close to the United States and its Western partners.
“Quite honestly, what the Russians are probably doing is sending a reminder that they can interfere with things in an unhelpful way if they are not brought along” with the West’s policies in Libya, said one former U.S. official who has tracked Wilcox’s work. “And a good candidate was the collateral damage.”
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