Skip to main content

Former UN envoy to Libya hired by UAE

Leon, who reportedly accepted the position while he was negotiating with the Libyan parties, denies any conflict of interest
File photo shows former UN Libya envoy Bernardino Leon (AFP)

Bernardino Leon, the United Nations special representative in Libya, recently landed a position training diplomats in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Leon, who is Spanish, is to deliver his last report to the Security Council on Thursday before heading to Abu Dhabi to begin work as the first director of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, starting in December.

Leon will be earning 35,000 euros ($38,000) per month at his new post.

The UAE supports the internationally recognised government in Libya's Tobruk over the rival government based in Tripoli, and critics have suggested that Leon's accepting the position reveals bias.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric dismissed the suggestion of a conflict of interest by Leon, who reportedly accepted the position while he was negotiating with the Libyan parties.

Leon denies any conflict of interest, saying he had made it clear he wanted to leave his UN role by 1 September. “The only defence I have against these attacks is my work,” he wrote in an email to The Guardian.

“As I said before, read my proposals, the agreement and the government proposal. It has been considered by the Libyans from both camps as a fair proposal.”

Emails seen by The Guardian show Leon was offered the role of director general in June, a move followed up by talks about increasing his housing allowance a month later. In August he said he would be travelling with his family to settle down in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE backs the House of Representatives government in Libya, which is negotiating with the Islamist-backed GNC alliance on forming a unity government to end years of turmoil in the North African country.

Both the internationally recognised government based in Tobruk and the rival government in Tripoli have rejected a UN-proposed unity government spearheaded by Leon.

UN spokesman Dujarric said of Leon's new position: "I am sure he will make a terrific teacher of diplomacy." 

"Mr Leon's tireless work to bring the parties in Libya together in a government of national accord and resumed transition speaks for itself."

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahya, who is chairman of the board of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy, said that Leon's experience will "be a rich resource for our new generation of diplomats".

Leon took up the post of special envoy for Libya in August 2014, winning agreement from all sides to negotiate a political deal. But the talks have hit a wall over appointments to government posts.