26 August 2015
7512th Meeting (AM)

Difficult to Overcome Political Polarization in Libya or Eliminate Terrorism Unless Libyans Come Together under Single Banner, Security Council Told

With the political dialogue process in Libya nearing its last stages, “time is running out” for leaders on all sides and at all levels to make the “final push”, the head of the United Nations Mission in that country told the Security Council today.

“Overcoming the political polarization and divisiveness in Libya will be no easy task,” said Bernardino León, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), during a briefing to the 15-member body via video teleconference from Paris.  Ibrahim Dabbashi, Permanent Representative of Libya, also addressed the meeting.

The magnitude of the challenges should not be underestimated, nor of the resources required to pull the country back from the brink of economic meltdown and total collapse of State institutions, Mr. León said.  It would be the determination and commitment of Libyans themselves, more specifically their political leaders, which would safeguard the country.  The international community must move quickly to present a clearly articulated strategy in support of the Libyan State.

The situation in western Libya had witnessed a marked reduction in military tensions, he said, which stood in stark contrast to security dynamics elsewhere in the country.  Fifteen months since the start of military operations in Benghazi, confrontations had gradually transformed into a “war of trenches” with no immediate end foreseen.  The situation in the south was equally appalling, where the absence of the State and of a properly functioning security apparatus had exacerbated competition among rival groups for power and resources.

At the national level, the scale of human suffering was staggering for a country with large oil reserves and strong economic potential, Mr. León said.  An estimated 1.9 million people required urgent assistance to meet their basic health-care needs, and access to food was a major problem for 1.2 million people.  Close to 250,000 migrants were estimated to be in or transiting through the country, many of them facing significant protection issues.  This year alone had seen more than 2,000 migrants drown in the Mediterranean Sea, the vast majority in a desperate bid to reach Europe.

Since he last briefed the Council in mid-July, he said, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS), or Da’esh, had extended to a 200-kilometre stretch of coastline east and west of Sirte.  Libyan stakeholders must recognize that no strategy aimed at containing, if not eliminating, the Da’esh threat would be viable unless it was part of a concerted, unified and coordinated effort that brought all Libyans together under a single banner.

To that end, he reconvened talks in Geneva on 11 and 12 August focusing on ways of expediting dialogue ahead of the 21 October deadline, when the mandate of the House of Representatives would end.  Although the General National Congress in Tripoli did not initial the main text of the Libyan Political Agreement along with other dialogue participants on 11 July, he was confident that their concerns could be addressed in the ongoing discussions on the annexes.

Seven months since the Mission launched the political dialogue process, the talks had come a long way in narrowing the trust deficit that existed among the country’s political stakeholders and in forging agreement on a road map to end the country’s political crisis and military conflict, Mr. León said.  He called on Libyan leaders not to “squander the historic and unique opportunity they have before them to be peacemakers”.  The Agreement may not be perfect, but it was a fair and reasonable one in which “the only winners are the Libyan people”.

Addressing the Council, Mr. Dabbashi said his country was currently going through the most critical phase in its modern history.  In particular, it was being threatened by a conspiracy promoted by certain countries, he said, expressing hope that Libya “would be saved by its own people”.

Libyans had recently begun to feel optimism that the crises could, in fact, be settled, which was linked to the formation of a Government of National Accord, able to communicate freely with all the parties.  As some people feared that such a Government could not be easily formulated, there was still a crucial role for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Council to play.

Indeed, he went on, Libya needed to set aside the failures of the last four years, with the objective of choosing new leaders.  Success could vanish due to the intransigence of one party, which did not respect the future of Libya.  As long as that party had enough weapons and enough foreign support, it would block peace.  He called on Mr. León to help eliminate “partisan delays” by that party.

The formation of a Government of National Accord was not the end of the process, he said, noting at the same time that UNSMIL had provided support to set up State institutions and to improve the functioning of the transitional Government.  The Council must be ready to take all measures to support the new Government and to fight against extremist groups.  He stressed that all efforts by the Special Representative could be futile if terrorism was not clearly defined and its sponsors identified.

He said the situation on the ground was critical.  Al-Qaida had not changed its tactics.  In the course of the last six months, Da’esh or ISIL had controlled a number of Libyan towns with Al-Qaida support.  The only difference between ISIL and Al-Qaida was the nature of their criminal activities.  Al-Qaida was going to “come back to the forefront”, he said, expressing his hope that States would support the Libyan people over terrorists no matter what name they went by.

The meeting began at 10:01 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.