Wednesday, 12/8/2020 | 9:57 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Chaos Could Reign in Libya if Challenges Not Addressed, Special Representative Tells Security Council, Outlining Critical Steps Needed to Support Progress

Success Depends on Implementing Political Agreement, Says Permanent Representative, Urging Support Mission to Be ‘More Proactive

Although some progress had been made, serious challenges continued to face Libya a year after the signing of the Political Agreement, and if not addressed, could result in chaos, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya told the Security Council today, outlining steps needed for the country to move forward.

Briefing the 15-nation body, Martin Kobler recounted progress made, noting that the Presidency Council had been operating for almost nine months, oil production had tripled since August, ambassadors were presenting credentials and advances had been made against terrorist groups.  However, serious challenges included pretender governments competing for power and a fragmented security situation which allowed criminal and terrorist networks to flourish.  Furthermore, the country’s economic situation remained precarious. 

“While some opponents of the Libyan Political Agreement in Tripoli seem to have unrestricted access to huge sums of money, the Presidency Council and Central Bank of Libya are still struggling to find a way to disburse money,” he said, adding that Libya’s financial reserves had shrunk from $108 billion in 2013 to $45 billion.  Libya would face an “economic meltdown” unless something changed.  The country was running a budget deficit of approximately 70 per cent of its gross domestic product.  In addition, the lack of rule of law, corruption and high yields on the black market was resulting in “billions of dollars disappearing into shadowy accounts”, he said.

Underscoring that the Libyan Political Agreement remained the only viable framework, he highlighted the steps needed in order for Libya to move forward.  The House of Representatives must vote on and endorse the Government of National Accord presented by the Presidency Council.  Armed groups in Tripoli had to be tackled “urgently”, he said, stating his full support to the creation of the Presidential Guard.  The economic recovery of the cities of Sirte and Benghazi had to be prioritized and the fundamentals of the Libyan economy had to be addressed, specifically the deficit, inflation, and the lack of liquidity. 

More so, he also called for a phased return of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) once security questions had been adequately mitigated, adding “we should do it now to support all partners in these difficult moments.”  Stability could be better achieved if the international community was on the ground, and not in exile.  “We can be far more effective there than we can hope to be in Tunis,” he said.  

Little progress had been made in the formation of the Government of National Accord, Luise Bermudez (Uruguay) said.  It was key that the Presidency Council broaden its basis among the population.  One positive development was the progress made in the fight against ISIL positions.  Welcoming the elimination of remaining chemical weapons, he also underlined the importance of carefully examining the mandate of the Mission.

Ramlan Bin Ibrahim (Malaysia), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, said that the Panel of Experts had reported unabated military activities by different actors in Benghazi and Derna and in the fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) in Sirte.  The Panel had, among other things, noted a change in control over oil facilities, and had expressed concern about the continued human rights violations by various factions, in particular by ISIL, including mass killings, arbitrary arrests and kidnappings.

He said that, concerning arms embargo violations, the Panel had reported on transfers of military aircraft and vehicles, presence of mercenaries and foreign military forces, as well as foreign airstrikes.  Armed groups continued to finance themselves through illegal means, including through the smuggling of fuel.  The Panel was investigating alleged attempts to move large amounts of assets from other parts of Africa back to Libya and had presented a total of 16 recommendations.

The Committee had discussed the Panel’s interim report on 20 October, he said, and had expressed concerns about the political transition and security situation, security assistance to the Government of National Accord, arms flows into and out of Libya and financing of armed groups.  On 4 October, the Committee had received an inspection report from the European Union military operation in the Southern Central Mediterranean (EUNAVFOR MED Operation Sophia), noting that no prohibited items had been found on board the inspected vessel. 

The Committee had further updated its Sanctions List with additional identifying information, he said.  It had dispatched two notes verbale to all Member States, covering issues relating to the arms embargo and to funding for investigations by the International Criminal Court.  The Committee had also received two arms embargo exemption requests, one of which had been approved.  It had also received an assets freeze exemption request, which was on hold pending the receipt of additional information.  The committee had also received requests for guidance on the arms embargo and one request for guidance on the asset freeze.

Elmahdi S. Elmajerbi (Libya) noted that the Political Agreement still faced serious difficulties, particularly its rejection by the House of Representatives.  The success of the Government depended on the implementation of the Agreement, of which UNSMIL was the guarantor.  Consequently, the Mission had to be more proactive by making proposals.  A lack of institutions in different sectors made it impossible to request assistance from UNSMIL.  He expressed hope the international community would provide more assistance to fight terrorism, in accordance with Security Council resolution 2214 (2015). 

He said that he hadn’t noticed many changes regarding the mandate of UNSMIL proposed for 2017, adding his hope that the Mission would focus on security and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme, as well as working on strengthening security institutions.  Furthermore, regarding the creation of a Presidential Guard, he said he hoped it would start operations very soon, and that it would be exempted from the arms embargo in order to do fulfil its duties.  Relations with the 1970 Sanctions Committee should be based on partnership and transparency, with sanctions imposed in the interest of the Libyan people.  Regarding comments that Libyans were dying in the Mediterranean, he said Libya was still a transit country for migrants and not a country of origin.

The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 10:34 a.m.