Monday, 23/9/2019 | 2:29 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Libya on Brink of Permanent Split, Top United Nations Man Tells Security Council, as African Union Official Calls Country ‘Proxy Battleground’ for External Actors

Permanent Representative Highlights Progress by Government of National Accord, Urges Members to Do More than 'Express Concern'

Libya is on the verge of a civil war that could split the country permanently, the senior United Nations official in that country warned the Security Council today, as that body's members sounded the alarm over the rapid proliferation of weapons and the prospect of a major humanitarian catastrophe.

Libya is on the verge of descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), cautioning that the potential damage would take years to repair, even if the war ends now.

Recalling the attack by General Khalifa Haftar's forces on Tripoli, where a third of Libya's 6.5 million people live, he reported that more than 460 people were killed, 29 of them civilians. Over 2,400 were injured, mostly civilians, he added, noting that 75,000 more civilians have been forced from their homes, over half of them women and children. He urged the Council to call for silencing the guns and for the warring parties to engage with UNSMIL to ensure a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities and a return to the inclusive United Nations-led political process.

The African Union's Commissioner for Peace and Security said the situation is complicated further by the fact that Libya has essentially become a proxy battleground for external actors pursuing their national interests through local proxies. The African Union remains convinced that there is no military solution to the crisis and therefore reiterates its call for a dialogue and consensus between and among Libyans as the only lasting solution for a stable and united Libya.

Persistent disagreements between the Presidency Council and the House of Representatives concerning the scope and modalities of implementation have stalled any meaningful progress, he noted. It is tragic to see the resumption of the war the same day when the United Nations Secretary-General arrived in Tripoli and two days after the Chairperson of the African Union Commission visited Tripoli and Benghazi to consolidate a long-expected political agreement. The situation is having devastating effects on African migrants, especially those detained in Tripoli, he said, citing reports from the capital that some migrants are being used as human shields.

Toxic external interference has exacerbated the already volatile situation on the ground, he reiterated, stressing that all stakeholders must concentrate their efforts on continuing the peace process. In the face of the prolonged suffering and despair of the Libyan people, the full-scale war imposed on them and the bitter lesson of the past seven years, I count on my colleagues around this table to go above and beyond a review of the political and security situation.

Equatorial Guinea's representative emphasized the importance of the Commissioner's statement in providing a much-needed African perspective on the situation in Libya. The realities on the ground get worse by the hour, fuelling a heightened sense of alarm, he said, pointing out that the conflict could have been avoided in the first place. He went on to reject outside meddling, urging third party players instead to influence all sides in the conflict to recommit to a ceasefire. External meddling only exacerbates the situation on the ground, he reiterated.

The United Kingdom's emphasized that all Member States have an obligation to honour the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council. Flooding Libya with arms is only going to fuel the escalation, she warned. Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh) continues to capitalize on Libya's instability, she said, pointing out that those extremist groups are the ones actually benefiting most from the conflict.

Other Council members expressed concern about the military confrontation, the regrouping of terrorists with a view to recapturing their former strongholds, violations of the Council-imposed arms embargo, the subsequent proliferation of weapons, the risk of conflict spilling over into the wider Sahel region, as well as the burgeoning humanitarian crisis.

South Africa's representative said her delegation does not view the imposition of sanctions as an end in and of itself, but rather as a complementary tool intended to accompany a political process towards peace. However, an arms embargo is an important way to prevent the illicit flow of arms into Libya and the greater Sahel, she noted.

The Dominican Republic's representative recalled that, before the clashes in Tripoli, his delegation was cautiously optimistic about a political solution, in particular the prospect of convening the National Conference in April. However, the situation went from bad to worse over the past one-and-a-half months, he noted, predicting that if the situation persists, Libya will be the next major humanitarian crisis in the region and its weak social fabric may not withstand such a shock.

CAte d'Ivoire's representative said that, with prospects for intra-Libyan dialogue dwindling, the United Nations and the African Union can play an important mediation role in ending the crisis and achieving lasting peace. The recent communique issued by the two organizations highlights their complementary roles, he added.

The Russian Federation's representative said the state of Libya today is the direct result of geopolitical engineering that some countries decided to conduct in 2011, emphasizing that the situation should serve as a reminder that foreign interventions are a bad idea. Any external attempt to distort or set parameters for how Libyans should set up their national institutions will be counterproductive, he said, adding that previous commitments made have, unfortunately, remained only on paper. The natural wealth of Libya belongs exclusively to the Libyan people, he stressed.

Libya's representative, noting that eight years have passed since the situation in his country was placed on the Council's agenda, highlighted the progress made by the Government of National Accord on public order, the functioning of State institutions, cooperation with the international community, eradication of terrorists, removal of chemical weapons, and the promotion and protection of human rights and economic growth, he urged the Council to do more than merely expressing concern. It should implement its resolutions and help the Special Representative begin a political process, he added.

Indonesia's delegate, Council President for May, spoke in his national capacity, echoing calls for a humanitarian pause during the holy month of Ramadan. He expressed concern that an estimated 100,000 men, women and children remain trapped in immediate front-line areas, and that more than 400,000 are in areas directly impacted by clashes. Every day of violence means more people killed, injured or displaced.

Also briefing was Jurgen Schulz (Germany), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya.

Others delivering statements were representatives of Kuwait, France, China, United States, Poland, Peru, Belgium and Germany.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:11 p.m.

Briefings

GHASSAN SALAMA�, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said that, 48 days after the 4 April attack on Tripoli by General Khalifa Haftar's forces, too many people have been killed and much has been destroyed. Libya is on the verge of descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country, he warned, noting that the potential damage would take years to mend, and even then, only if the war ends now. More than 460 people were killed, 29 of them civilians, and more than 2,400 injured, the majority civilians, he reported, adding that 75,000 civilians have been forced from their homes, more than half of them women and children. Humanitarian actors estimate that more than 100,000 people remain trapped in immediate front-line areas, with more than 400,000 others in areas directly impacted by the clashes, he said, lamenting: This is the report whose delivery I have spent nearly the last two years trying to avoid.

He went on to say that the Secretary-General's visit to Libya on 3 April was intended to demonstrate the international community's full support for a peaceful resolution of the country's long period of upheaval. Indeed, the attack on Tripoli came on the eve of the National Conference in Ghadmes, an event that would have brought together more than 150 Libyans from across the country. The attack also imperilled the potential of the talks held on 27 February in Abu Dhabi between Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and General Haftar, he said. During their talks, there was a real opportunity to replace the Government of National Accord, dissolve the parallel Government and create an inclusive, unified national Government that would have shepherded Libya through the election process to the end of the transitional period. He recalled that the understandings reached in Abu Dhabi also placed the military under civilian control, a key demand of the vast majority of Libyans and many in the international community. ISIL and Al Qaida are exploiting the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of many of General Haftar's troops from the south, he said, noting that four separate ISIL attacks have occurred in southern Libya.

He went on to note that the conflict has been characterized by the use of air strikes, heavy artillery and the indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, adding that Ramadan nights have become periods of sheer terror. The United Nations still maintains an active presence on the ground, although it had to scale down non-essential personnel, given the situation. Another casualty is infrastructure, including electricity and water. There is no military solution to Libya, he said, emphasizing: This is not a cliche. A country of 6.5 million people deserves peace and the right to collectively determine their own path forward. Without immediate action to stop the flow of arms and pressure on the parties in conflict to resume serious dialogue, Libya will descend into a civil war which could potentially lead to a Hobbesian all-against-all state of chaos or partition, he warned. Although full-scale civil war is not inevitable, it may occur by the will of some parties and the inaction of others, he cautioned, urging the Council to take up its responsibility to call for silencing the guns and for the warring parties to engage with UNSMIL to ensure a full and comprehensive cessation of hostilities and a return to an inclusive United Nations-led political process.

SMAIL CHERGUI, Commissioner for Peace and Security of the African Union, spoke by videoconference from Addis Ababa, reporting that the situation in Libya has deteriorated gravely in the last few weeks. On 4 April, the Libyan National Army launched a military campaign to take over Tripoli while the Government of National Accord mobilized forces to defend the capital, he recalled. The ensuing fighting led to the deaths of more than 400 civilians, injury to over 2,000 and the displacement of 60,000 more, he said, adding that the situation is complicated further by the fact that Libya has essentially become a battleground for external actors pursuing their national interests through local proxies. The African Union remains convinced that there is no military solution to the crisis and therefore reiterates its call for a dialogue and consensus between and among Libyans as the only lasting solution for a stable and united Libya, he said.

Persistent disagreements between the Presidency Council and the House of Representatives concerning the scope and modalities of implementation have stalled any meaningful progress, he continued. It is tragic to see the resumption of the war the same day when the United Nations Secretary-General arrived in Tripoli and two days after the Chairperson of the African Union Commission visited Tripoli and Benghazi to consolidate a long-expected political agreement, he said. In addition to the composition of the Presidency Council, the formation of a national Government, the army commander-in-chief and the equitable distribution of oil revenues, the fate of African migrants in Libya and the dangerous impact of the crisis on the entire Sahel are also of concern, he emphasized.

The last terrorist attack in Niger proved once again that more means and techniques have been brought from Libya, he said, underlining that it is imperative to recognize that the deteriorating situation demands an immediate ceasefire agreement. The situation is having devastating effects on African migrants, especially those detained in Tripoli, he reiterated, citing reports from the capital that some migrants are being used as human shields. Beyond coordination with International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the European Union on this issue, additional efforts are urgently needed, he said. Toxic external interference in Libya has exacerbated the already volatile situation on the ground, he reiterated, stressing that all stakeholders must concentrate their efforts on continuing the peace process. In the face of the prolonged suffering and despair of the Libyan people, the full-scale war imposed on them and the bitter lesson of the past seven years, I count on my colleagues around this table to go above and beyond a review of the political and security situation.

JARGEN SCHULZ (Germany), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, reported that Moncef Kartas, a member of the Committee's Panel of Experts, was arrested and detained in Tunisia on 26 March. In its most recent written note, dated 13 May, the Secretariat informed the Committee that, after a careful review of the information submitted by the Tunisian authorities to the Secretariat, it reaffirmed the immunities enjoyed by Mr. Kartas, requesting his immediate release and the dropping of any charges against him. During the reporting period, the Committee also concluded its consideration of two of the four recommendations previously submitted by Libya with reference to paragraph 8 of resolution 2174 (2014), he reported. The Committee determined that the items and services in question fell under the exception to the arms embargo contained in paragraph 10 of resolution 2095 (2013), he said, while also providing updates on the Committee's work relating to asset freezes and travel bans.

Source: UN Security Council

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