Why the UAE opposed Algeria’s Sabri Boukadoum’s candidacy as UN Libya envoy

By Farid Alilat
Posted on Tuesday, 5 July 2022 12:02

Former Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum during a meeting on Libya with ministers from neighbouring countries in Algiers, 23 January 2020. © REUTERS/Ramzi Boudina

The United Arab Emirates, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, rejected Algerian diplomatic chief Sabri Boukadoum’s application to become the next UN envoy in Libya. Algeria suspects the US is behind this refusal.

Sabri Boukadoum, the former head of Algerian diplomacy, will not be the next UN special envoy and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (Manul). The Algerian diplomat’s name was rejected after the United Arab Emirates (UAE) refused to validate his candidacy, which was presented by UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Prior to this, things had looked rather good for Boukadoum.

To fill the position left vacant by Jan Kubis following his resignation in November, Guterres proposed the former Algerian minister’s name after having obtained the latter’s agreement, as well as that of the Algerian authorities, including that of his long-time friend Ramtane Lamamra, the current foreign affairs minister.

“Regional concern”

With the Algerian side’s support, Guterres submitted the Algerian’s candidacy to the UN Security Council’s 15 members. However, his proposal was rejected by the UAE, a non-permanent member of the UN representing the Arab world.

“Only the United Arab Emirates refused,” a diplomat who requested anonymity told AFP. When asked about the reasons for the UAE’s refusal, as well as the name of the next special envoy to Libya, Stéphane Dujarric, the UN secretary-general’s spokesman, declined to comment.

According to several other diplomats interviewed by AFP, the UAE explained that “Arab countries and Libyan parties had expressed their opposition” to the former Algerian official’s appointment.

The names of these Arab countries and the identity of the Libyan parties were not specified, but according to our information, Egypt also opposed the former Algerian minister’s appointment.

There is “regional concern” about Boukadoum’s appointment, said one of the diplomats, stressing that choosing a national from a country bordering Libya would create problems as his job would be “impossible.”

The US hand?

Algiers was not at all surprised that the Emiratis refused to validate the candidacy of Boukadoum, minister of foreign affairs between 2019 and 2021.

“The Emirates acted underhandedly on behalf of the Americans,” says an Algerian diplomat. “They acted in the same way when they blocked Lamamra’s candidacy, despite it receiving the consent of the AU and the UN Security Council’s 13 members.”

The UAE’s flat-out refusal to validate an Algerian candidate and Algeria’s insistence that it be allowed to apply for this sensitive post are nothing new. In April 2020, Lamamra withdrew his candidacy for the post after the US refused to endorse him.

At the time, the UAE and Egypt, which supported Marshal Haftar’s efforts against Fayez al-Sarraj’s Government of National Accord, had joined forces with the US to block the path of Lamamra, who has been leading his country’s diplomatic response ever since he returned to business in July 2021.

An Algerian diplomatic source who did not wish to be identified suspects the US of having torpedoed Boukadoum’s candidacy so that it can continue to weigh in on the Libyan dossier.

“Stephanie Williams, special adviser to UN Secretary-General Guterres and de facto head of the UN mission in Libya (Manul), wants to maintain the upper hand when it comes to Libyan affairs,” said the source. “The absence of a special envoy thus gives her full power to act behind the scenes.”

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