Competing Individual Agendas Blamed, as Speakers Cite Plight of Migrants, Refugees
Two months since the launch of the Action Plan for Libya, the United Nations mission in that country had simultaneously started working to amend the Libyan Political Agreement, organizing a national conference, preparing for elections and providing humanitarian assistance, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council today.
Briefing on the situation, Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said the country was divided at an “atomic level”. An explosion of competing individual agendas often masqueraded as representing regions, cities or tribes, he said, emphasizing the crucial importance of reconstructing the national polity, without which effective institutions could not form.
Reporting that the Action Plan had made significant headway, he recalled that he had convened two sessions of the Joint Drafting Committee comprising members of both the House of Representatives and the High Council of State. UNSMIL was preparing for the National Conference, to take place in February 2018, he said, adding that he was trying to establish the proper political and technical conditions for the elections. The Libyan Political Agreement of 2015 must stand, amended or not, as the framework for ending the transition.
Turning to the question of migrants and refugees, he said an increasing number were arbitrarily detained in a system without accountability. Migrants continued to be subjected to extreme violence, torture, rape, extortion and forced labour, he said, urging the Government to address challenges relating to respect for the rights of migrants and host communities across the country.
Three serious challenges had imposed themselves, he said: impunity for grave crimes; the economy of predation; and the erosion of frozen assets. Impunity and lawlessness still prevailed across the country in the face of increasingly heinous crimes committed every day. Billions of dollars in illicit money transfers were lost every year. The trafficking of subsidized fuel to foreign countries robbed Libya of hundreds of millions of dollars every month, while hundreds of million more were silently being lost due to poor management of Libya’s frozen assets, he said. “It is outrageous that a country which stands upon such vast wealth has so many suffering.”
Olof Skoog (Sweden), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, known as the 1970 Committee, reported that, on the basis of a request by Government of Libya, the Committee had renewed the listings for the vessels Capricorn and Lynn S, which had attempted to illicitly export gas oil from Libya. The Committee had also responded to a request from Egypt on the scope of measures contained in the draft resolution in relation to vessels transiting the Suez Canal. Regarding the arms embargo, he said the Committee had approved two requests for exemption, from UNSMIL and the Netherlands. It also sought further clarification of two exemption requests submitted by Switzerland and Canada in respect of the asset freeze.
Council President Angelino Alfano, Italy’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, spoke in his national capacity, stressing that the stability of the entire Sahel region was at stake in Libya. Priorities included fighting terrorism and controlling borders. The decline in migration flows was encouraging but it could not be at the expense of human rights, he emphasized. As the first country to re-establish a diplomatic presence in Tripoli, he welcomed the United Nations presence and encouraged other Member States to return to Libya.
Mohamed T.H. Salia, Libya’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, reaffirmed that his country’s Government of National Accord was committed to working within the United Nations framework to end the crisis in the country and called for international support to continue in order for Libyans to come together. He expressed hope for agreement between Libya’s two competing legislatures and for progress towards elections soon. He underlined the importance of maintaining the ban on illicit sales of oil and of returning smuggled shipments to Libyan authorities. As for frozen Libyan assets, he said the measure had been intended to protect assets after the fall of the previous regime, but it had not taken the subsequent protracted crisis into account. For that reason, it was now counterproductive to the interests of the Libyan people. He called not for lifting the asset freeze, but for ways to manage the funds and prevent the current losses.
Delegates welcomed the progress achieved and urged Libyan leaders to continue their cooperation with the Special Representative in implementing the Action Plan in order to establish a truly national Government. The Libyan Political Agreement was the only framework for the path forward, they said.
However, several delegates noted that responsibility for implementing the Agreement rested on the shoulders of all Libyan actors. Some stressed that it was up to the Libyan authorities to address the problem of migrants and refugees, and that those responsible for violating their human rights through torture, rape and killing must be prosecuted.
Senegal’s representative pointed out the deleterious effects of the crisis on the entire Sahel region, saying it was characterized by the spread of illicit weapons, other forms of smuggling and terrorism. Implementation of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and support for the G5 Sahel were critical in that regard, he said.
The representative of the United States said spoilers must not block reconciliation any longer, noting that some asserted that the Libyan Political Agreement would expire in December. Some made such claims as a pretext for dragging their feet, she said, stressing that the Agreement was the only valid framework during the transition period. She also emphasized that sanctions must focus on the illegal smuggling of oil, reminding all Member States that the two sanctioned vessels must not be permitted to enter their ports.
Several other delegates also stressed the importance of sanctions, with the Russian Federation’s representative pointing out that that the flow of weapons remained a great threat. Calling for strict compliance with the arms embargo, he said that easing the regime would be premature. There should be no free interpretations of the sanctions already in place, he stressed.
Bolivia’s representative noted the high humanitarian cost of clashes between armed groups, the alarming number of migrants and refugees losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea, and the detention of migrants under horrible conditions, including torture. The effects of conflict in the region resulted from policies of regime change, he said.
Representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Egypt, Japan, China, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Uruguay and Ethiopia also delivered statements.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 12:06 p.m.
GHASSAN SALAMÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), reported that, two months since the launch of the Action Plan for Libya, the Mission had simultaneously begun work on amending the Libyan Political Agreement, organizing a national conference, preparing for elections and providing humanitarian assistance.
He went on to describe Libya as a country divided at an “atomic level”, with an explosion of competing individual agendas often masquerading as representing regions, cities or tribes. Effective institutions could not form without reconstruction of the national polity, he emphasized. Citing significant headway in implementing the Action Plan, he said that he had convened two sessions of the Joint Drafting Committee, comprising members of both the House of Representatives and the High Council of State. Whereas much progress had been made, a few points were still to be agreed, he said, stressing that any mechanism to select a new Presidency Council and Government must be transparent and fair. The Libyan public had overwhelmingly welcomed that principled approach.
He went on to report that UNSMIL was preparing for the National Conference, Al‑Multaqa al‑Watani — to be held in February 2018 — which would give Libyans the opportunity gather in one place to agree on the tangible steps required to end the transition. Vowing to insist on an inclusive Conference in order to enable the adoption of a true National Charter, he said he was trying to establish the proper political and technical conditions for the elections, which should not take place until there was certainty that they would not add a third parliament or fourth government. The High National Election Commission was working to initiate voter registration before the end of 2017, he said, adding that the House of Representatives must assume its duty to pass the requisite electoral legislation.
The Constitutional Drafting Assembly had been elected and the constitutional process must now move forward, he continued, underlining that the Libyan Political Agreement of 2015 must stand, amended or not, as the framework for concluding the transition. UNSMIL was intensifying its engagement with armed groups and developing a strategy for their gradual reintegration into civilian life. In Tripoli, experts were working to empower State security forces to secure the capital more effectively. The delivery of human security needed an empowered judiciary as well as professional law enforcement and security agencies, he emphasized, noting that the United Nations was working with the Ministry of Justice and other actors on reforming the appalling detention system, among other goals.
He said 25 per cent of the population had humanitarian needs. With the health sector in crisis, only a fraction of Libya’s public hospitals was functioning and medicines were in short supply. Foreign staff had fled and the country was vulnerable to an epidemic outbreak, he warned. “It is outrageous that a country which stands upon such vast wealth has so much suffering,” he said, adding that UNSMIL’s humanitarian strategy sought to address the acute needs of the most vulnerable groups. The two‑year‑old Stabilization Facility had benefited communities in Ubari, Benghazi, Sebha, Sirte and Kikla and was expanding to Bani Walid and Greater Tripoli, he added.
Turning to the question of migrants and refugees, he said that despite emergency assistance, the number of those arbitrarily detained had increased in a system without accountability. Migrants continued to be subjected to extreme violence, torture, rape, extortion and forced labour, he said, urging the Government to address the challenge of ensuring respect for the rights of migrants and host communities across the country. Three serious challenges had imposed themselves: impunity for grave crimes; the economy of predation; and the erosion of frozen assets. Impunity and lawlessness continued to prevail across Libya in the face of increasingly heinous crimes committed every day, he said, recalling that 36 corpses had been found in al‑Abyar, near Benghazi.
Such events shook popular faith in the political process, he stressed, calling on the Libyan authorities to investigate them and hold the perpetrators to account. If Libyans could not combat impunity for war crimes, it was time the international community considered mechanisms that could help them do so, possibly including joint tribunals. Politics in Libya was strongly shaped by economic predation and a shadow economy had been flourishing, he said, noting that billions of dollars in illicit money transfers were lost every year. The trafficking of subsidized fuel to foreign countries robbed Libya of hundreds of millions of dollars every month, and the country’s financial reserves were depleting rapidly. With hundreds of millions silently being lost due to poor management of Libya’s frozen assets, its external wealth should be revisited to ensure those assets were not silently and gradually lost to future generations, he said.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), speaking in his capacity as Chair of the 1970 Committee, reported on the work of that panel — established by resolution 1970 (2011) — in the period from 29 August to 16 November 2017. On the basis of a request from the Government of by Libya, he said, the Committee had renewed the listing of the vessels Capricorn and Lynn S for sanctions after it had attempted illicitly to export gas oil from Libya. It had also responded to a request from Egypt on the scope of measures contained in the draft resolution as they related to vessels transitioning the Suez Canal.
Regarding the arms embargo, he recalled that the Committee had approved two requests for exception, from UNSMIL and the Netherlands. It had sought further clarification of an exemption request submitted by Switzerland in respect of the asset freeze, and continued its consideration of a similar request submitted by Canada. Finally, the Committee had convened consultations with the 1591 Sudan Committee and the 2206 South Sudan Committee about the activities of Darfuri armed groups in Libya and South Sudan, he said, adding that the respective expert panels had shared their findings on the armed groups’ illicit cross‑border activities.
ANGELINO ALFANO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy and Council President for November, spoke in his national capacity, warning that the entire region’s stability was at stake in Libya, and that there was no military solution. Priorities included fighting terrorism and controlling borders, he said, emphasizing the need to combine international solidarity with security in that respect. On the political front, developments presented good signals, but great challenges remained, he said, adding that Italy stood firmly behind the Special Representative’s approach. The second anniversary of the Libyan Political Agreement should be used to spur progress because that agreed framework was the only way forward.
Emphasizing, in addition, the need to develop unified security forces, he reiterated condemnations of mass killings and called for their full investigation. Noting his country’s humanitarian assistance to vulnerable persons in Libya and those trying to leave the county, he said the decline in migration flows was encouraging but it could not occur at the cost of human rights. Italy was working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to alleviate the plight of migrants, he said. As the first country to re‑establish a diplomatic presence in Tripoli, Italy welcomed the United Nations presence and encouraged Member States to return to Libya, he said, urging them to join his country in helping the Libyan people restore peace and stability.
MATTHEW RYCROFT (United Kingdom) welcomed recent positive signs of forward movement in Libya’s political process under the Action Plan, but the country remained at a fragile turning point. Further commitment on the part of all parties was needed to sustain momentum and establish a truly national government that could deliver for all its citizens, he emphasized. Further delay would only prolong suffering, and recent acts of violence showed the tragic possibilities, he said, also citing human rights violations against migrants and others, as well as extrajudicial killings. Those responsible must be held accountable. He urged all Member States to ensure respect for the arms embargo, and to prevent the smuggling of oil so that the country’s resources would benefit its population. Stressing that a political agreement remained the only way forward, he expressed support for the progress made, including constitutional consolidation and preparations for the elections. The international community must remain united in calling upon Libyan leaders to work for their country’s long‑term future, he emphasized.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) agreed that there was no alternative to reconciliation under the Action Plan in creating a peaceful Libya. Citing terrorism, smuggling and the deteriorating economy, he said civilians were tired of suffering the consequences of the military adventure that had occurred in 2011. Many Libyans seemed ready to move forward, he said, expressing hope that all stakeholders saw the need for dialogue. The Russian Federation had long been a friend of Libya and supported its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Whereas certain parties in the country remained on the margins of the political process, solutions could not be imposed on Libyans, he stressed, saying they must themselves move forward with support from the international community. That support should be consolidated to avoid competition, and all must play by the same playbook. Noting that the flow of weapons remained a great threat, he called for strict compliance with the arms embargo, adding that easing it would be premature. Illegal exports of oil were also a problem, but there should be no free interpretations of the sanctions in place, he stressed.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said it was indispensable that the Council pursue a positive and unified approach to the Libya situation and, for that purpose, to support the Special Representative’s efforts fully in order to move the Action Plan forward. Responsibility for the Action Plan’s success, however, rested on the shoulders of all the Libyan actors, he said, encouraging them to engage in dialogue under the Special Representative’s auspices. Progress made during the meeting of the Middle East Quartet in Tunis on 26 September must be solidified. The agreed framework was the only way forward, he said, emphasizing that there was no military solution. Incidents of mass killings demonstrated the urgent need to build the national security architecture. The humanitarian and economic track must also be pursued, he said, stressing that Libya’s oil resources must be solely under national control so as to benefit all Libyans. Sanctions must enforce that, and all measures must be taken against individuals and entities threatening stability. He called on Libyan authorities to fight the deplorable treatment of transiting migrants through cooperation with UNHCR and IOM. Cooperation with the International Criminal Court was critical to ending impunity and pursuing reconciliation and peace. Underlining the urgent need to support the Action Plan, he said Council unity was critical, as was adequate resourcing for of UNSMIL.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), emphasizing that the United Nations should play the leading role in mediation and support efforts in Libya, said his country would continue to support efforts to amend the Libyan Political Agreement, the only viable framework for the transitional period. Reiterating the critical importance of women’s representation in each step of the process, he expressed concern about the widespread abuses and violations of human rights perpetrated by all sides and almost always with complete impunity. Encouraging UNSMIL to step up its human rights monitoring, he called upon the international community to seize the window of opportunity to lay the foundations for long‑term peace and stability in Libya.
AMR ABDELLATIF ABOULATTA (Egypt) said his country was making efforts to unify the Libyan armed forces and had received military envoys in Cairo for detailed discussions on that issue. It revolved around the nature of the relationship between the civilian authorities and the military, he explained, saying the discussions would continue. Egypt also continued to follow the meetings of the committee to amend the Libyan Political Agreement, he said, underlining that participants must have the necessary flexibility and avoid confrontation. Any delay in arriving at the amendments would open the crisis to more complications, he warned. Egypt was concerned about military confrontations in some parts of the country, he said, emphasizing that escalation must be avoided.
SACHE SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia) called on all parties to implement the Libyan Political Agreement and the political transition on the basis of Libya’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. Constitutional reforms and the electoral process would pave the way to stability, he said, noting that clashes between armed groups continued at a high humanitarian cost. Expressing concern at the alarming number of migrants and refugees losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea, he said he was dismayed by the detention of migrants in Libya under horrible conditions, including torture. Bolivia called on the parties to eliminate human rights abuses, conform to international humanitarian law and prosecute those responsible for violations. He noted that the impact of conflict on the region was the consequence of regime‑change policies.
KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that, whereas negotiations would not be easy, it was important to maintain the dialogue necessary to complete Libya’s transition. Parties with influence over the relevant actors should help to contain any actions that might have a negative impact on the process, he said. Reflecting its commitment to supporting the Libyan‑owned process, Japan was considering relocating its embassy to Tunis so it could more closely follow the situation on the ground and strengthen cooperation with relevant countries and organizations. The Council must also consider how to strengthen the Libyan people’s confidence in and support for the process, he noted. As such, there was need to provide basic public services, enhance the Government capacity as well as that of local authorities, and help the internally displaced. Japan had been actively supporting local peacebuilding efforts, including by building capacity and institutions, and through economic and social development as well as local reconciliation, he said, adding that his country had also prioritized contributions to the Stabilization Facility for Libya and was considering further peacebuilding assistance.
FODÉ SECK (Senegal) said the situation in Libya remained of great concern despite the spark of hope seen recently. The crisis had had deleterious effects on the entire Sahel region, marked by the spread of illicit weapons, other smuggling and terrorism. Implementation of the Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and support for the Sahel G‑5 was critical in that regard, he said. Stressing that there was no military solution to the Libya crisis, he urged all Libyans to work together in favour of peace and territorial integrity, and to pursue dialogue under the agreed political framework. Acknowledging that the framework needed amendments, he nevertheless underlined that it remained the only way forward.
SHEN BO (China) said that the 2015 Libyan Political Agreement, an important step towards the restoration of peace and security in that country, faced many challenges. Urging the Libyan parties to work together and move the political process forward with support from the international community, he emphasized that the latter must, in turn, respect Libya’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and ownership of the process. China recognized that enabling conditions for political dialogue would require improved security, he said. The United Nations should remain the main supporter of mediation, he added, pledging that China would continue to support all efforts to help the Libyans work together to recover from the crisis.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), emphasizing that a political settlement to the crisis in Libya was essential, urged Libyan political forces to cooperate with the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative. At the same time, the initiative and ownership of the peace process must come from the Libyan people. Improved socioeconomic conditions would help the political process and stabilize the country, he said. Expressing concern over the widespread human rights violations by various parties to the conflict, as well as the dire situation of migrants and refugees and the smuggler networks generated by their displacement, he said those elements threatened Libya’s stability, whereas settling the situation inside the country could reduce the level of migration flows. He underlined the importance of providing humanitarian assistance to those in need and welcomed the desire of OHCHR to expand its activities in the region.
MICHELE J. SISON (United States) commended the Special Representative’s efforts to reinvigorate the process in Libya and emphasized that national leaders must take the necessary decisive steps, supported by the Council. The ultimate goal was to help prepare for elections, and political dialogue was the only way forward, she said, adding that Libyans were tired of spoilers, who must not block reconciliation any longer. Noting that some parties had asserted that the Libyan Political Agreement would expire in December, she said those making such claims were dragging their feet. Their claims should be refuted, she added, stressing that the Libyan Political Agreement was the only valid framework during the transition period. Concerned about increased violence, including the killing of 36 people, among other incidents, she said those responsible must be held accountable. Turning to sanctions, she said the focus must be on illegal smuggling of oil, reminding all Member States that the two sanctioned vessels must not be permitted to enter their ports.
VOLODYMYR YELCHENKO (Ukraine) emphasized that there was no military solution to the conflict in Libya, and it could only be resolved through dialogue. Amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement remained the only viable framework for ending the crisis, and in that regard, Ukraine called on all parties to continue consultations and reject any attempt to undermine the objectives of the transition period. Expressing concern about insecurity, he urged warring parties to refrain from actions that could aggravate the security situation and disrupt unification of the Libyan army and national security forces. As for terrorism, Ukraine supported the Government’s efforts to counter terrorist threats and defeat extremist groups, including Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said. While urging the international community to support the Government’s efforts to restore law and order, he also expressed concern about continuing human rights violations — including against migrants and refugees, in official as well as unofficial detention centres — and called upon the international community to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect those vulnerable groups.
LUIS BERMÚDEZ (Uruguay) called on all stakeholders in Libya to exercise calm and restraint, reiterating that the only solution to the conflict was political. Such a solution would require inclusive negotiation between the parties leading to elections. The Council must continue to provide full support to the Government, he said. Acknowledging the need for amendments to the agreed political framework, he affirmed that it remained the only way forward. Security and the humanitarian crisis must also be addressed, he added, citing violent incidents across the country and the prevalence of terrorism and crime. As for the suffering of migrants, he said that selling them as slaves was particularly reprehensible and must be condemned.
TEKEDA ALEMU (Ethiopia) said the time had come for the Council to speak with one voice on Libya, as in other crisis situations. Expressing solidarity with that country’s people and Government, he emphasized that the only way to address the multifaceted crisis sustainably was through a comprehensive political solution facilitated by the United Nations. The Action Plan provided a way to end the impasse, he affirmed, agreeing that a vacuum must be avoided, hence the need to preserve the Political Agreement under Libyan ownership. There was also a need to end the violence so that the political process could proceed. Since the solution remained in the hands of the Libyans themselves, Ethiopia called upon all stakeholders there to engage in dialogue to that end.
MOHAMED T.H. SIALA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Libya, reaffirmed that the Government of National Accord was committed to working within the United Nations framework for an end to the crisis in his country. Recounting the factors that had led to the current impasse, he called for international support to enable Libyans to come together to solve the resulting problems. The September meeting in Tunis had been fruitful in bringing the parties together in that way, he recalled, expressing hope for agreement between the two competing legislatures and for progress towards elections. The Government was striving to mend the rifts and unite the country through mediation and by building institutions and providing services.
Affirming that there was no military solution to the crisis, he emphasized the need to consolidate the armed forces under civilian leadership, recalling that recent meetings had tried to bring different parties together for that purpose. He condemned, however, recent actions by “shadow bodies”, including the detention of mayors in Tobruk and other cities. He also condemned recent incidents of violence, recalling that he had sought United Nations assistance in relation to a criminal bombing.
He went on to underline the importance of maintaining the ban on illicit sales of oil and of returning smuggled shipments to the Libyan authorities. Delisting the vessels involved would only encourage more smuggling, he added. Concerning frozen Libyan assets, he said the measures had been intended to protect assets after the fall of the previous regime, but they had not taken the subsequent protracted crisis into account. For that reason, the freeze was now counter-productive to the people’s interests. Libya called not for lifting the freeze, but for ways to manage the funds so as to prevent recurring losses.