|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6595th Meeting (AM)
Both Sides in Libyan Conflict Emphasize ‘Maximum Demands’ as Posturing Belies
Stated Willingness to Talk, Security Council Told
Ceasefire Linked to Transitional Arrangements Only Solution,
Says Political Affairs Chief, Urging Need for Patience before Detailed Talks
Despite ongoing clashes and shifting front lines, the five-month-old war between Government and opposition forces in Libya had basically stalled behind the posturing of both sides, and a ceasefire tied to transitional arrangements was still the only sustainable political solution to the crisis, the Security Council heard today.
“There have been some marginal gains on the battlefield for the opposition forces but no dramatic changes in the overall situation,” B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said in a briefing. He added that the front lines remained in flux while opposition forces attempted to advance towards Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
Meanwhile, Government forces were targeting strategic cities and areas under opposition control, he continued. In addition, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations continued, directed primarily against sites in and around Tripoli. “The challenges posed by the Libyan crisis are serious ones, but we believe they can be managed by staying closely involved, actively pursuing a negotiated solution and planning carefully for a possible role, if asked, in the future,” he said.
He went on to outline efforts by the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, to press ahead with the parallel approach proposed to Government officials in Tripoli and National Transitional Council representatives in Benghazi, saying that discussions had been held with the opposition on 25 July. At that meeting with the Special Envoy, National Transitional Council members had insisted that they could not engage in talks about establishing a new transitional entity while Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi’s regime remained in Tripoli.
“They emphasized that meeting the aspirations of the Libyan people had to be the main aim of the negotiations, and this included the departure of Colonel Qaddafi,” Mr. Pascoe said, adding that while no conclusions had been reached, the talks had been “quite useful and constructive overall”. As for the Government’s position, he said that on 26 July, the Special Envoy had met in Tripoli with Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, who had reiterated the position ruling out a political process that implied that Colonel Qadhafi was stepping down.
He said the Prime Minister had also raised various aspects regarding Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), including their impact on the North African country. He had also demanded that NATO cease its military actions before Libya would engage in any process to implement those resolutions. “This posturing by both sides has been fairly consistent since the beginning of the discussions,” Mr. Pascoe said, adding that while both sides were willing to talk, they were still emphasizing maximum demands, “and patience is required before detailed discussions can begin”.
Mr. Pascoe went on to stress that a ceasefire tied to transitional arrangements, and which addressed the aspirations of the Libyan people, was the only sustainable political solution to the crisis. From the outset, the United Nations had worked closely with all concerned parties inside Libya, with regional organizations, including the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as the wider international community, he said. “It remains critical that the international community speak with one voice through the Secretary-General and the Special Envoy in order to bring about a political solution.”
Spotlighting other activities aimed at moving the political process forward, he noted that the Contact Group on Libya had held its fourth meeting on 15 July in Istanbul, Turkey, where the participants had recognized the National Transitional Council as the “legitimate governing authority in Libya” until the establishment of an interim authority. He also noted that on 18 July, the African Union Ad-Hoc High-Level Committee on Libya had convened a technical interactive meeting in Addis Ababa to which the Libyan Government, the National Transitional Council and the United Nations had been invited. While Tripoli had sent a delegation to participate in that meeting, the National Transitional Council had not.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said more than 630,000 people, including some 100,000 Libyans, were now believed to have fled the country since the start of the conflict. Another 200,000 Libyans had been internally displaced. Further, the number of people stranded at border points in Egypt, Tunisia and Niger had been reduced to about 2,600, mostly third-country nationals, including asylum seekers who could not return to their homes. Additionally, some 22,000 people, mostly African migrants, had arrived in Italy and Malta by boat, he said, noting that at least 1,400 people had died or gone missing during those voyages.
The Libyan Government had repeatedly complained about the shortage of medical supplies, vaccines and equipment, he said, adding that major food shortages had been reported in Tripoli. Meanwhile, humanitarian aid and food supplies were arriving regularly in opposition-controlled areas, though some shortages were being reported. “The lack of fuel, of course, affects the movement of people and goods, electricity, water supply, employment, hospitals, agriculture and fisheries,” he said, adding that the United Nations remained concerned about the risk of water services breaking down due to uncertain fuel supplies and the absence of spare parts for maintenance.
“The approach of the holy month of Ramadan has added greater urgency to the provision of supplies and meeting humanitarian needs,” he continued, reporting that both the Libyan Government and the National Transitional Council had requested the use of Libya’s frozen assets to address that situation. The Secretary-General had forwarded those communications to the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee.
On other issues, he said that Ian Martin, Special Adviser on Post-Conflict Planning in Libya, continued to work with key partners within and outside the United Nations to identify ways in which the world body could be helpful after the crisis was resolved. The Organization’s system-wide pre-assessment process to develop possible relevant scenarios and areas where international support might be appropriate was nearing completion. That effort, if requested, would be invaluable if and when the United Nations was called upon to react quickly in a post-conflict Libya.
Turning to implementation of the relevant Council resolutions, he said the Panel of Experts created under resolution 1973 (2011) had begun its work in earnest, making visits to countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to gather and analyse information on efforts to implement its founding text, as well as resolution 1970 (2011). So far, the Secretary-General had received 43 communications from more than 20 Member States and regional organizations, informing him of their actions with respect to implementation of resolution 1973 (2011)
Following Mr. Pascoe’s presentation, South Africa’s representative noted that it had been more than four months since the adoption of Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), and all Member States should remind themselves that the intention of those texts was to end the crisis in Libya and help the parties find a political solution. The aim had not been regime change, he emphasized.
He went on to say that since the adoption of those resolutions, whatever the intention had been at the time, they had only worked to destabilize Libya even further, as evidenced by the deteriorating humanitarian situation, the increasing loss of civilian lives, and the destruction of infrastructure. “What is required is full implementation [of the resolutions] in letter and in sprit,” he stressed, recalling that the texts underscored, among other things, the need for a political solution to the crisis, and for intensified efforts to that end.
Recalling that the African Union High-Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya had presented a framework agreement based on the regional body’s road map for Libya and the relevant Security Council resolutions, he said that it stressed national dialogue, confidence-building and other measures, including the establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission. The framework had been submitted to the Government and the National Transitional Council at the end of the recent African Union Summit, held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.
The Security Council and the wider international community must impress upon the parties the need for a political solution, he reiterated. “We have noted the calls ‘Qadhafi must go’, but such calls do not bring the parties any closer to a diplomatic solution,” he pointed out. Also of concern were the implications of “choosing sides” in any conflict situation, which might damage the Council’s reputation and hamper implementation of its resolutions.
The meting began at 10:16 a.m. and ended at 10:31 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record