Sanctions Committee Chair Also Briefs; Libya’s Ambassador Calls for Lifting of Arms Embargo to Reinforce Army’s Arsenal
Libya could not allow the political crisis and armed conflict that had gripped the country for much of the past year to fester, the United Nations’ senior official there told the Security Council today, stressing that unless leaders acted “quickly and decisively”, the risks to national unity and territorial integrity were imminent.
“The overall situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly,” said Bernardino León, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), updating the Council via video link from Rome. Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS) would stop at nothing in their bid to play on political divisions and sense of mutual mistrust to consolidate their influence. On 20 February, a car bomb in al-Qubba had left 44 people dead, the highest number of fatalities from any single terrorist act. Even in the current climate of political polarization and armed hostilities, condemnation was swift and unequivocal.
To be sure, Libya’s political leaders had “come a long way” towards injecting hope that an end to the political crisis and armed conflict was possible, he said. While the onus was on them to outline a road map for achieving those goals, the ability of a national unity Government to deliver notable change would largely depend on international efforts to articulate a strategy for technical assistance delivery, as well as support for State efforts to combat terrorism.
Fear over the terrorist threat was palpable, he said. In meetings in Tobruk and Tripoli last week, Libyan leaders had expressed great concern about the State’s “limited” capabilities to confront it. It was crucial to create the right conditions for addressing the terrorist challenge, while at the same time, support Libyan efforts to tackle it. Both sides had sent a clear message that terrorism would not be allowed to hold hostage the dialogue process. The House of Representatives also had voted to resume participation in the dialogue talks.
On that point, he said that on 5 March, dialogue teams from the major political stakeholders would convene in Morocco to advance discussions on proposals concerning: the formation of a national unity Government; security arrangements that would pave the way for a ceasefire, withdrawal of armed groups from towns and cities, arms control measures and monitoring and implementation mechanisms; and the completion of the constitution drafting process and need for related timelines. To galvanize support for the talks, UNSMIL would convene two dialogue meetings next week, the first in Algeria, for Libyan political leaders and activists, and the second in Brussels, for municipal representatives to foster implementation of confidence-building measures previously agreed in Geneva.
Among the challenges was the “fluid” security situation, he said, calling yesterday’s attacks by both sides on public infrastructure “reckless”, especially coming just one day after parties had recommitted to resume dialogue. The political leadership must take “all necessary measures” to prevent further attacks and ensure that all forces operating under its command complied with the political commitment to dialogue.
Moreover, he said, the systematic campaign of misinformation regarding the dialogue was symptomatic of the prevailing deep mistrust. “This is a Libyan-Libyan dialogue”, he said, anchored in the principle of mutual consensus among the parties. The United Nations’ role was to facilitate the talks and maintain the utmost respect for Libyan ownership of the process. Every participant would be required to consult with their constituencies before a final agreement was formally endorsed.
“Libyan people have not given up on their hopes for a modern Libyan democratic State,” he said. Difficult decisions and compromises would be needed, and the United Nations would be a partner in the journey ahead, he stressed.
Speaking next, Hussein Haniff (Malaysia), Chair of the Committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) — the Libya Sanctions Committee — presented that body’s final report, which covered the 18 December 2014 to 4 March 2015 period. First highlighting findings from the final report of the Panel of Experts under resolution 2144 (2014), which the Committee received on 4 February, he said that weak implementation of the arms embargo, high demand for arms and the amount of resources available to fighting parties to procure materiel all indicated that large-scale trafficking would likely continue.
He said the Panel had reported on the diversion of military materiel to armed groups on both sides of the political divide, as well as difficulties in differentiating authorized and illicit transfers. It also had reported significant terrorist-related security challenges in Libya’s neighbours and Sahel countries, concluding that arms and related materiel originating in Libya had markedly reinforced the military capacity of terrorists operating in those countries.
Regarding the travel ban, the Panel had found violations of that measure by two listed individuals, while concerning the asset freeze, it believed that large amounts of assets were likely being held outside Libya under false names and by “front” companies. It identified States lacking the capacity to implement the asset freeze, cautioning that fraudulent attempts were being made to recover “looted” Libyan assets. As for attempts to illegally export oil from Libya, the Panel noted that while exports of crude not under the Government’s control had likely taken place, no request for designation of the transport vessels had been made.
Overall, the report had been well received by the Committee, he said, citing discussion around reported arms embargo violations and the Panel’s lack of access to Libya and other countries with pending requests. The Committee agreed to follow up on six of the Panel’s 18 recommendations. Among other activities, the Committee had dealt with various aspects of the arms embargo, having replied to a Member State about the disposal of seized military materiel; provided guidance to a Member State on proceeding with a previously exempted arms transfer to Libya; and sought information from a Member State about an intended transfer of non-lethal materiel to Libya.
Following the briefings, Ibrahim O.A. Dabbashi (Libya) said considering that the Libyan army was waging a war against terrorist organizations, it was in the international community’s interest to lift the arms embargo or make certain exemptions from it. Weapons exempt from the embargo would not reach any party other than the Libyan army, he stressed, adding that the army was ready to accept an observer to ensure that weapons approved by the Committee were, in fact, delivered to the army only.
The report of the Sanctions Committee refuted allegations that the Libyan air force was responsible for losses among civilians, he said. The report was unlike that of the Secretary-General, which tried to overlook the existence of the Libyan army and its military successes. Indeed, he warned, the international community’s silence in the face of terrorist organizations overtaking Tobruk and Benghazi would continue to encourage the destruction of the capital, Tripoli.
He said Libyans felt that the international community had failed them because of the lack of support for their legitimate, elected House of Representatives. Certain parties were overlooking the facts. He challenged the representative of one permanent Council member to renounce his country’s engagement with the group Ansar al-Sharia. That State was either planning for the division of Libya or paving the way for its citizens of Libyan descent to head the Libyan Government. Whatever its objectives, it did not serve the cause of global peace and security, he stressed.
A delay in restoring legitimate State authority meant “covering up” crimes of terrorist militias in Libya, he said, stressing that hundreds of thousands of Libyan refugees would continue to suffer in neighbouring countries. Indeed, the security situation in Libya must not remain “hostage” to the success of the national dialogue, but rather, must be improved in parallel with it. He hoped Mr. León would convince militia leaders to accept a national unity government, as supported by the Libyan House of Representatives.
For the first time since 2011, there was a legitimate Government in Libya, he said. However, it faced serious challenges, including a lack of international support. The international community could not continue to deny the Libyan Government resources, while at the same time blame it for its inability to control the country’s security situation. The coming days would reveal the Council’s seriousness with regard to its concern for the Libyan people, he said.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 10:52 a.m.