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On May 10, 2021, the State Department announced the appointment of US Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland as U.S. Special Envoy for Libya. Prior to his appointment to Libya, Ambassador Norland also served as U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan and later to Georgia. Below is the State Department announcement:
The Department of State is pleased to announce that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland will now also serve in the capacity of U.S. Special Envoy for Libya in addition to Chief of Mission for Libya. In his role as U.S. Special Envoy, Ambassador Norland will lead U.S. diplomatic efforts to promote international support for a Libyan-led, inclusive, and negotiated political solution to the conflict, facilitated through the UN.
Ambassador Norland, a Career Minister in the Foreign Service and a three-time ambassador, has served as Chief of Mission at the Libya External Office in Tunis since August 2019. The addition of the U.S. Special Envoy role to Ambassador Norland’s Chief of Mission responsibilities signifies the importance the United States attaches to focused, high-level diplomatic outreach in support of the Libyan political process culminating in elections on December 24, 2021. He will work closely with key partners to strengthen efforts to keep the political process on track and ensure the removal of foreign forces from Libya.
Ambassador Norland also will work closely with interagency colleagues in Washington, civil society, and humanitarian partners to further the U.S. role in actively supporting the Libyan people as they seek lasting peace, security, and prosperity in their country. The U.S. Special Envoy will also keep Congress closely informed of our efforts.
At the May 10th DPB, a reporter inquired about Ambassador Norland’s new title:
QUESTION: I’m having trouble figuring out what exactly he’s going to be doing different today than he was doing, like, last week.
MR PRICE: Well, so obviously, last week he was not the special envoy. He is —
QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But other than having a new title, it sounds like he’s doing exactly the same thing as he was before. So why give him – why does he need this new title?
MR PRICE: Because the mandate he is taking on now will require him to engage on behalf of the U.S. Government with other partner nations —
QUESTION: Yeah, but —
MR PRICE: — serving beyond his role of chief of mission in Libya. As special envoy, he’ll have the remit to engage other governments, civil society, congress as well.
QUESTION: He didn’t before? I mean, he lives in Tunis, which is a different country.
MR PRICE: Right. But this gives him an elevated profile —
QUESTION: So he didn’t have the latitude to deal with the Italians or with the Maltese or with the Tunisians before?
MR PRICE: I think we wanted to make it very clear the priority we attach to this, and naming Ambassador Norland as a special envoy would give him that added remit.