Amid a host of security, economic and governance challenges, a “window of opportunity” had emerged in Libya — home to the United Nations largest diplomatic mission — and it was up to its people to seize it, stressed the Organization’s top official in the country as he briefed the Security Council today.
Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), outlined his initial visits with stakeholders across Libya since his appointment on 22 June. Among those, he had met with Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj, Chairman of the High Council of State Al-Sweihli and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as military leaders, security officials, women, youth and activists. He had also met with leaders in neighbouring States, including Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Italy, but had not been able to visit the south of Libya due to external restrictions.
Throughout those meetings, he said, “a clear picture is emerging — people are frustrated with their deteriorating living conditions.” It was unnatural that in a country as wealthy as Libya, university departments were closing because the outrageous gap in the exchange rate had led the foreign faculty to quit en masse. People were tired of the endless cuts in electricity and water, which in turn took down the telephone system and the Internet. Indeed, Libya was an oil-producing country where people must queue, sometimes for an entire day, for 20 litres of petrol.
“There is obviously a serious problem of governance that can hardly wait to be addressed,” he stressed, noting that Libya was “fuelling its own crisis with its own resources to benefit the few and the frustration of many.” Underlining his intention to work closely with partners to help realize a macroeconomic vision for the country while assisting its authorities in providing basic services, he said that unless those economic challenges were addressed the country’s humanitarian crisis would also deepen.
Also describing a number of security sector challenges, he said there was fear about criminality and kidnapping while civilians were killed or injured across the country as a result of sporadic armed clashes and explosive remnants of war. Thousands were also detained for prolonged periods, many with no prospects of a fair trial. He also listed a number of critical issues to be addressed, including the need to build consensus among Libyans on the legal and political significance of the upcoming two-year anniversary of the Libyan Political Agreement and the prospect of adopting a constitution.
Pointing to growing and widespread calls for fresh elections, and underlining the need to ensure the political and technical preconditions for their success, he said a political package was needed to bring all those elements together into a single package that most, if not all, players considered acceptable. Also emphasizing the threats posed by the presence of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist groups, foreign fighters and mercenaries — as well as the trafficking of arms and the cross-border black market economy — he said Libya’s problems also impacted its neighbours and the wider international community.
Nevertheless, he said, “we are not starting from zero”, as the Libyan Political Agreement already provided a working political framework. There was a need to support the Agreement, as well as the ceasefire and the commitments made in the Paris Communiqué, with concrete action. To deliver on its mandate, the United Nations continued to ramp up its presence in Tripoli and across the country. Recalling that a convoy of UNSMIL personnel had been attacked with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades on 28 June, resulting in one injury, he underscored the need to remain aware of the “real risks in operating in Libya” and to mitigate them as effectively as possible.
Underlining his belief that a peaceful and positive end to the crisis was possible, he said it was in that context that Secretary-General António Guterres had decided to convene a high-level meeting during the upcoming meeting of the General Assembly, with the aim to present an action plan for Libya.
Following that briefing, Carl Skau (Sweden), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, updated the 15-nation body on the impact of resolution 2362 (2017), which had in June added refined petroleum products to a list of banned exports. The Committee had, as a result, identified two vessels carrying illegal gasoil sailing under the flags of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and of the United Republic of Tanzania. The Committee had written to the flag States and other Member States of concern seeking further relevant information. Turning to the Panel of Experts’ programme of work, he said the Committee had agreed to take action on five recommendations, one of which had already been discussed at an informal meeting on 21 August.
The Committee, he said, had, among other things, addressed arms embargo queries, reports and requests for exemptions. On assets freezes, it had received a notification from Greece and considered an exemption request from Canada. On the travel bans, the Committee approved an advancement of the return travel of Safia Farkash Al-Barassi and approved the extension of an exemption request for Sayyid Mohammed Qadhaf Al-Dam, both individuals being authorized to travel on the grounds of humanitarian need. With regard to the related work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001), the Committee had received one implementation report from a Member State.
Elmahdi S. Elmajerbi (Libya) said the Government of National Accord aimed at taking the necessary steps needed to address the current situation in his country. The current political scene remained ambiguous, with ongoing efforts led by neighbouring countries to bring actors together to achieve agreement. The concerned parties needed to move forward on an agreement signed in Morocco in 2015. Terrorism, illicit migration and natural resources smuggling were among the pernicious scourges Libya faced.
Proposed efforts for dialogue and reconciliation were welcomed, he said, stressing that there was no military solution to the crisis. Despite a lack of capacity to deal with those and other challenges, the Government had managed to hamper local militias and had chased them out of Tripoli. The Government supported UNSMIL and its mandate and appreciated the Sanctions Committee’s role, including its recent expansion of banned illicit exports to now include gasoil. However, frozen assets were posing a continuing problem, with a loss of assets negatively affecting the Libyan people. Not asking for the freeze to be lifted, the Government was requesting new efforts that would protect those assets.
Council members encouraged recent positive steps and raised concerns about persistent challenges. Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay) said the current situation, with frequent, bloody armed conflicts and the presence of terrorism groups, had darkened the horizon of hope. Mistakes must not be repeated, he said, urging Member States to give Mr. Salamé the required support to explore alternative options and new avenues. The Council could choose to ignore reality, but it could not avoid seeing the consequences of that choice.
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) said the Council must consider the impact of the Libyan conflict on the region, particularly in Mali, where outbreaks of chaos and terrorism had been seen. Indeed, reports had shown, in 2015, that terrorist groups were using Libyan arms to wreak havoc on the ground and further destabilize the region’s security landscape. Also concerning were reported sporadic confrontations between parties that were causing civilian deaths and instability and the lingering issue of unexploded ordnance, threatening returnees and humanitarian staff. Calling on parties to the conflict to observe humanitarian law, he reiterated that the only solution to the conflict was along a political path. Progress towards a draft constitution should be maintained to ensure a successful referendum that would permit Libyans to determine their future.
The meeting began at 3:02 p.m. and ended at 3:51 p.m.