|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6541st Meeting (AM)
Protecting Civilians, Securing Commitment for Negotiations, Plan for Post-Conflict
Peacebuilding Key Priorities for United Nations in Libya, Security Council Told
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe Briefs
Protection of civilians, securing a commitment for indirect negotiations and planning for post-conflict peacebuilding were the key priorities of the United Nations in Libya, the Organization’s top political official told the Security Council this morning.
The human rights situation remains “deeply troubling,”, said B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs said, citing yesterday’s condemnation by the High Commissioner for Human Rights of brutal measures taken by the Government, along with “shocking reports of sexual violence against women, including gang rapes by military forces”.
He stressed that all parties to the conflict must take measures to spare civilians from the effects of hostilities and reiterated the Secretary-General’s appeal for increased support for humanitarian efforts, pointing out that, to date, some 893,000 people, mostly migrants, had left the country, with some 5,000 stranded at border points, and around 50,000 internally displaced living in spontaneous settlements in the east.
At the same time, he said, the political process — aimed at indirect negotiations based on proposals presented to both parties by the Special Envoy – was “crucial in our efforts to find a lasting solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and corresponds with resolutions 1970 and 1973”.
Further, he said, progress was being made on contingency plans for post-conflict peacebuilding. The Special Adviser, Ian Martin, had initiated a pre-assessment process focusing on six areas: political; security apparatus; rule of law and human rights; economic recovery; public administration; and physical infrastructure. Of course, he said, “the plan will be guided by the principle that the fate of Libya is to be decided by the Libyan people.”
Noting that three months had passed since the crisis began, he reported that fighting between Government and opposition forces continued, particularly in the western part of the country. The operation known as UNIFIED PROTECTOR, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), had intensified with repeated claims from the Government of civilian casualties.
Defections from the regime seemed to again be on the rise, he said, including eight generals who were now in Italy with many of their officers and had appealed for others to join them and “stop the atrocities being committed against their people”.
Opposition forces had gained control of the previously besieged city of Misrata, he said, but there continued to be fighting on the outskirts and the city was only accessible by sea. Government forces had intensified their campaign to take strategic positions in the western Nafusa Mountains, leading to the flight of more than 54,000 residents of Yefran to Tunisia.
Fighting continued on the Libyan-Tunisian border, at times spilling over into Tunisia, he said, and tensions had escalated between refugees and local residents, particularly at Choucha Camp that holds some 3,000 refugees, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, where unrest had led to deaths, looting and destruction.
He said that, to date, around 14,000 people had arrived by boat in Italy and Malta, with at least 1,200 people missing from their attempts to make that journey. Hundreds had crossed back into Libya from Tunisia and Egypt, apparently planning to board boats to Europe.
According to the Transitional National Council, he said, fuel and cash shortages affected daily life in opposition-controlled areas, and that Council estimated that it had only 40 per cent of funds it needed for April and May. On 21-22 May, the seventh ship of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) delivered food and deployed an inter-agency assessment team. Food availability in the west was estimated to be sufficient for a month. The Government had requested gasoline be permitted to enter the country for the continuation of basic services.
He said that the revised $407 million Regional Flash Appeal, with a stronger focus on humanitarian action inside Libya, targeting 1.7 million people, was currently funded at about 46 per cent, with $185 million committed and over $4 million in pledges.
The United Nations, he said, had established presences in Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruq. Due to deteriorating security, staff in Tripoli had been relocated on 2 May, although after security discussions with the Government, a humanitarian team, led by the Humanitarian Coordinator, returned to the city on 29 May and would stay on for 10 days.
In regard to political efforts undertaken by United Nations officials, he said the parties in Libya “remain far apart on even beginning negotiations to resolve the conflict”. The Libyan Government had repeatedly called for a ceasefire, including an end to NATO operations, as a prerequisite for negotiations. The Transitional National Council, for its part, had maintained that negotiations on a ceasefire and other related aspects could only start when Muammar al-Qadhafi and members of his family were removed from power, and when Libyan armies withdrew from cities forcibly occupied after the outbreak of the conflict.
The Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Abdel Ilah al-Khatib, representatives from the African Union and other stakeholders had been making every effort to narrow those differences and to begin a credible negotiating process, he said.
He said that Secretary-General had been in almost daily discussions with the Libyan authorities and world leaders on the situation in the North African country. In several phone conversations with Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdada Ali al-Mahmoudi, the most recent being on 24 May, the Secretary-General reiterated the urgent need for a real ceasefire and serious negotiations on a transition to a Government that fully met the aspirations of the Libyan people. “The Prime Minister stuck to the stated position of the Government and called for an end to the coalition bombing campaign,” Mr. Pascoe said.
He went on to note that the Secretary-General had attended the Extraordinary Summit of the Assembly of the African Union on 25 May, which extensively discussed the crisis. While the leaders attending the meeting were “strongly divided” on the issue, the final communiqué had nevertheless stated that only a political solution to the current conflict would make it possible to promote sustainable peace in Libya and fulfil the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people. It had also called on the African Union Peace and Security Council to consider deploying African Union observers and monitors to Libya, and to dispatch a ministerial delegation to New York to interact with the Security Council and to undertake practical steps to engage concerned partners on the African Union road map.
At the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General had held a meeting with Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati al-Obeidi, as well as close confidants of Colonel Qadhafi. The Secretary-General, he said, reaffirmed that his Special Envoy was ready to conduct indirect talks with both sides and had emphasized the need for serious, detailed dialogue and a cessation of hostilities by both sides. The Foreign Minister and his delegation had noted that they were willing to work with the Special Envoy, and had asked the United Nations and the African Union to declare a ceasefire that would stop the NATO air strikes and then lead to elections. The Foreign Minister had proposed that an election be organized by the African Union and United Nations, and added that Colonel Qadhafi would respect the will of the people at the conclusion of such a poll.
Mr. Pascoe said that, at the recent Group of 8 Summit in Deauville, the Secretary-General had called for increased support for humanitarian assistance for the affected populations in Libya and in neighbouring countries. He had met with many leaders, including the Chairperson of the African Union, Jean Ping, and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa. In their final declaration, the G-8 leaders had, among other things, demanded the immediate cessation of the use of violence against civilians by the Libyan regime forces, as well as the end of all incitement to hostility and violence against the civilian population.
He went on to say that, over the past month, the Special Envoy had focused on two key issues: ensuring that the initiatives of various Member States and regional organizations were coordinated, so that the Government and the Transitional National Council were receiving “similar messages” from the international community; and narrowing the differences between the two parties to get direct negotiations under way. On that point, the Special Envoy had presented his proposals to Government officials in Tripoli on 15 May and to interim Transitional National Council representatives in Doha on 24 May. The proposals centred on the need to: end hostilities; agree on a transitional arrangement; provide safe humanitarian access; and fully implement Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011). “Although their positions remain far apart, both [parties] reiterated their continued commitment to work through the Special Envoy,” Mr. Pascoe said.
He highlighted other regional meetings, including a gathering yesterday in Cairo chaired by the outgoing Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and attended by the Special Envoy, which had focused on coordinating positions to end the conflict. As for implementation of Security Council resolution 1973 (2011), Mr. Pascoe said that, so far, the Secretary-General had received more than 40 communications from more than 20 Member States and regional organizations, informing him of actions to that end. In addition, the Special Envoy had received more than 20 letters and documents from the Libyan Government, and the interim Transitional National Council stating their overall positions and views.
The Government’s communications mainly stated that it was complying with the relevant resolutions, including allowing the passage of ships carrying humanitarian aid, he said. They had also asked for United Nations assistance to use foreign assets to buy basic necessities such as food supplies and medicines, as well as to allow fuel for basic services.
He also noted that, in line with resolution 1973 (2011), the Secretary-General had appointed seven experts to serve on the panel established by that text to assist the relevant Committee in carrying out its mandate. Those experts had been selected on the basis of their professional merit, with due consideration to geographical diversity, gender balance and focus of expertise, and are expected to meet with the Committee for the first time on 6 June.
The meeting began at 11:10 a.m. and ended at 11:30 a.m., at which time the Council went into consultations on Libya, as previously arranged.
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