Permanent Representative Calls for End to Arms Embargo, Foreign Interference
Without the international community’s support in Libya, spoilers will sabotage the political process and unravel the fragile and easily reversible progress made amid an already grim backdrop of sporadic violence and rising humanitarian needs, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the country warned today in a briefing to the Security Council.
“If this were to be allowed, Libya’s progress will be set back years and almost certainly open the door to those who believe there is only a martial solution to Libya’s woes,” said Ghassan Salamé, who also heads the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), via video-conference from Tripoli. Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNSMIL (document S/2019/19), he said a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the south amid sporadic clashes nationwide and worsening humanitarian conditions were exacerbated by a complex political deadlock and persistent attacks by terrorist and armed groups.
Recalling stories citizens shared with him during a recent visit to the south — from the wanton brutality of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) to wading through sewage caused by lack of public infrastructure investments — he said porous borders and the presence of foreign mercenaries only worsened the situation. For its part, the Mission has recalibrated itself to better serve Libya and work with the Government of National Accord, with a planned National Conference that can calm tensions and pave the way to elections. A new unit is also focusing on economic reform.
“It is vital that we are here, in Libya,” he stressed. “Your support to our efforts and clear signals of resolve to the many potential spoilers are vital. Within your grasp, you hold the opportunity to make the National Conference a success and municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections a reality. I can only encourage you to seize this opportunity.”
Libya’s representative, expressing hope about fruitful results from the National Conference — slated for early 2019 — emphasized the critical importance of stakeholders pledging firm commitments to its outcomes. He asked the Council to take all necessary measures to support Libyan security agencies, including by easing the existing arms embargo, which would allow related institutions to acquire the equipment needed to combat terrorist and armed groups. He also hoped the Council, after having Libya on its agenda since 2011, would be able to end foreign interference, which is influencing Libyan parties and preventing the country from reaching solutions.
Council members roundly supported current initiatives to foster calm, with many expressing concern about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions. Many supported a National Conference, with the United Kingdom’s delegate calling it the best way towards an inclusive political settlement. Echoing a common call, Indonesia’s delegate said the Council must exert its influence with various national and external actors to resolve the conflict.
The United States representative urged all Libyans to do their part to break the political deadlock, adding that his country stood ready to lend assistance. There can be no military solution, he declared.
Meanwhile, the Russian Federation’s delegate cautioned that international players, above all the Security Council, must refrain from measures that would make national dialogue more difficult. He stressed the need to consolidate support for Libyan dialogue by boosting the coordinating role of the United Nations. However, despite manifold efforts, prospects for a swift resolution to the crisis are dim, given the lack of compromise and ongoing security incidents.
Some members offered suggestions for overcoming the impasse, with France’s representative saying the status quo is a “shared enemy”. Calling on stakeholders to work towards breaking the political stalemate, he said stability depended on adopting an integrated political, economic and security strategy with an ambitious timetable.
As a member of the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya, South Africa’s delegate said efforts are under way to relaunch preparations for a national reconciliation conference with all relevant stakeholders. South Africa, through its own liberation struggle, understands first-hand the importance of including women in the peace process, he said, and thus welcomes the work of the Presidency Council’s Women Empowerment and Support Unit to advance gender equality.
Also briefing the Council was Juergen Schulz (Germany), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, who provided updates on its work related to the arms embargo and asset freezes.
In addition, representatives of Kuwait, Equatorial Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Poland, Germany (in its national capacity), Peru, Belgium, China and the Dominican Republic delivered statements.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.
GHASSAN SALAMÉ, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefed the Council via videoconference from Tripoli, providing a snapshot of developments on the ground after a recent visit to the south, where conditions are deteriorating at an alarming rate. Recalling stories citizens shared with him about hardships — from the wanton brutality of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) to wading through sewage caused by lack of public infrastructure investments — he warned that porous borders and the presence of foreign mercenaries worsened the situation, with criminals preying on citizens and migrants alike.
Urging the Government and international community to move swiftly to tackle challenges in southern Libya, he said UNSMIL has built a specific task force. While agencies were doing their duty, authorities must shoulder their responsibilities. Describing dire conditions in the south and throughout Libya, he said there is cost to inaction, citing southerners’ anger translating into attacks on water pipelines and oil facilities, which hobbled the economy. Indeed, all Libyans struggle with deteriorating public services and many thousands live with humanitarian concerns. Exacerbating the situation are clashes and ceasefire violations in Tripoli alongside continued fighting and arbitrary arrests in Derna.
Meanwhile, the Libyan National Army has started moving into the southern region, he said, adding that parties must take all measures to protect civilians and adhere to international humanitarian law. Providing examples of other “green shoots” of progress, he pointed at the Government of National Accord’s appointment of new ministers, a ceasefire with major armed actors and efforts to improve security nationwide, with the Mission already having provided technical assistance to a newly established committee to coordinate a security plan for Tripoli. Despite terrorist strikes and sporadic clashes, efforts are under way to train hundreds of police and judicial officers. The Mission is working with authorities to transfer control of prisons from armed groups to trained professionals under the Ministry of Justice. In addition, the economy continues to stabilize, with the liquidity crisis overcome, efforts to conduct an audit of the Central Bank moving “full steam ahead” and oil production reaching 1 million barrels daily. Yet, much more time and work are needed to create the prosperous, resilient and transparent economy Libya needs.
For its part, UNSMIL has retooled itself to better support this transformation with the establishment of a unit to advance this agenda, he said. To strengthen all fronts of United Nations support, “we have returned the Mission in full force in Libya”, he said, announcing the intention to re-open its office in Benghazi by February and in the south by the end of 2019. “It is vital that we are here, in Libya,” he said. “We dedicate tremendous efforts to preventing conflict. In a country so finely splintered, each day brings new divides that must be closed and fresh potential violence to stop. The life of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General is also one of a firefighter and the fires are many that need to be extinguished. Clearly, this cannot be done from abroad. We must be here.”
Yet, even the best efforts, without united and concerted national leadership, will only go so far, he said, adding that these various gains are both fragile and reversible. “We can fight fires, but, eventually, there will be an inferno that cannot be extinguished,” he said. “We must go beyond and tackle the underlying dysfunctionalities of the Libyan State.” With the political deadlock underpinned by a complex web of narrow interests, a broken legal framework and the pillaging of Libya’s greatest wealth, only Libyans themselves can plot a path out of this malaise towards stability and prosperity. “Over the last year, we have received growing demands that we facilitate a National Conference to allow them to do just that,” he said. “In the coming weeks, we shall seek to do so.”
A National Conference must be held under the right conditions, with one key outcome being charting the electoral path ahead, he continued. Libyan citizens indisputably want elections at the soonest opportunity, he said, noting the Electoral Commission’s work and engagement with the House of Representatives. But, prior to any elections, various concerns must be addressed, including political support for voting, funding and electoral security arrangements. Despite years of competing entities and individuals, now is the time for Libya to come together in the spirit of compromise, he said, beseeching members of various Libyan institutions to see the National Conference as a patriotic concern transcending partisan and personal interests. Regarding those seeking to undermine the National Conference, including those hoping to delay elections, he said competing interests are natural, but should not derail State rebuilding and institutional reunification.
Without international support, spoilers will sabotage the political process and undo any progress made, he cautioned. Should this be allowed, Libya’s progress will be set back years and almost certainly open the door to those who believe there is only a martial solution to Libya’s woes. “Your support to our efforts and clear signals of resolve to the many potential spoilers are vital. Within your grasp, you hold the opportunity to make the National Conference a success and municipal, parliamentary and presidential elections a reality. I can only encourage you to seize this opportunity.”
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, presented its report covering the period 6 September 2018 to 18 January 2019. During that period, Ibrahim Jadhran and Salah Badi became the seventh and eighth individuals in 2018 to be subjected to the travel ban and asset freeze for engaging in acts that met the sanctions designation criteria. He added that, on 1 and 2 November 2018, the Committee visited Libya for the first time since the inception of the sanctions regime, although the closure of the airport at Beida limited the mission to Tripoli.
He recalled the Council’s adoption on 5 November 2018 of resolution 2441, which extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts to 15 February 2020, as well as time-bound measures aimed at preventing illicit petroleum exports from Libya. That same text also elaborated the sanctions designation criteria to include sexual and gender-based violence and called on Member States to report to the Committee on their implementation of the travel ban and assets freeze. Following adoption of the text, the Secretary General appointed six individuals to serve on the Panel.
He went on to note the Committee’s adoption, on 4 and 17 December 2018, of two Implementation Assistance Notices to guide Member States on the application of the sanctions regime. The reporting period also saw the approval of requests from Tunisia and the Netherlands for exemptions from the arms embargo. Consideration of another two requests from Malta and Libya are ongoing. On the assets freeze, he said the Committee received — and did not object to — exemption notifications from the United Kingdom relating to the legal expenses of the Libyan Investment Authority, Aisha Qadhafi and the Libya Africa Investment Portfolio. On the sanctions list, he said the Committee updated the identifying information of five individuals and concluded its consideration of de-listing requests submitted by Ms. Qadhafi and Safia Farkash, who remain on the list.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), the Council co-penholder with Germany on Libya, said a National Conference is the best way towards an inclusive political settlement in Libya. Hopefully, all Libyans will come together and engage in that process, with a broad spectrum of society represented, including women. Noting that the Security Council has been “united pretty well” on Libya, she said she hoped that it can rally behind the United Nations action plan. Expressing great concern about recent attacks and clashes, she said Libya’s future cannot and will not be determined by spoilers who wish to maintain the status quo while ordinary Libyans suffer. She advocated support for economic reforms, alongside more targeted and effective sanctions against spoilers, as well as a nationwide sustainable security structure to underpin Libya’s stability.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) said the international community and Security Council must make every effort to ensure a sustainable solution to the spread of armed groups and assist the Government of National Accord in implementing the joint security plan. It is important to highlight the progress achieved, with UNSMIL playing a vital role. He expressed hope that the National Conference will be organized in a way that reflects the concerns of all Libyans. Welcoming recently adopted economic reforms, he called on the House of Representatives to work towards ending the shadow economy.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) said that, almost eight years since the crisis in Libya began, the situation remains precarious. Recalling decisions taken by the African Union, he said there can be no military solution, only a political one that involves reconciliation. Emphasizing an extreme need to end the alarming proliferation of armed groups, he expressed concern about the constant violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, as well as a climate of impunity that has exacerbated the plight of refugees and migrants who face arbitrary detention, sexual violence, ill treatment and torture. Equatorial Guinea is alarmed by the situation of refugees and migrants and calls on the Council to make joint efforts to give back dignity to the thousands who are suffering every day on Libyan territory.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the international meeting on Libya, held in Palermo, Italy, in November, helped to forge an understanding between the country’s two competing forces. It also demonstrated the international commitment to Libya’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity. Praising the Special Representative for his professionalism, and voicing support for his efforts towards a national dialogue, he said all protagonists must generate a sense of responsibility for the country’s future. Despite manifold efforts, however, prospects of a swift resolution to the crisis are dim, with the situation complicated by a lack of compromise and security incidents. International players, above all the Security Council, must refrain from measures that would make national dialogue more difficult. He stressed the need to consolidate efforts to support Libyan dialogue, including by boosting the coordinating role of the United Nations.
GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) said violence in Tripoli jeopardizes the relative improvement in the security situation. Attacks by Da’esh recall the threat that that group continues to pose. He warned that differences over a national referendum law are liable to delay presidential and parliamentary elections that ought to help end political instability. To ensure inclusive and credible elections, all actors must work to improve the security situation. He welcomed the Special Representative’s efforts to convene a National Conference in the first quarter of 2019, expressing ardent hope it will generate consensus. Regional players have an important role to play, he added, welcoming the African Union Peace and Security Council’s willingness to support UNSMIL in organizing the Conference. He stressed the need to protect civilians and migrants, and on the economic front, said the Libyan national oil company’s revenues are at their highest in six years. As there is no alternative to a political solution, he advocated international support for the Special Representative’s efforts and called on all stakeholders to engage constructively to break the deadlock.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) welcomed the unity shown by the international community at the conference in Palermo and expressed support for the United Nations action plan for Libya, calling on all Libyans to spare no efforts in holding a National Conference in early 2019 to conclude the political transition and unite the country. Women’s full and effective participation in Libya’s political and economic life is crucial for advancing peace and security. On security, she expressed hope that the Government of National Accord will show a stronger determination to implement the Greater Tripoli security plan. There is no doubt that political and security reforms need to be linked with economic reforms. Her delegation remains deeply concerned about widespread human rights violations, in particular, arbitrary detention of thousands of people without due process, she said, urging the Government of National Accord to better ensure that those responsible for war crimes and other serious violations of international human rights law are brought to justice.
JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa) said that his Government, as a member of the African Union High-level Committee on Libya, will continue to support the United Nations and the African Union in their common cause to coordinate activities towards a peaceful resolution of the current crisis. He recalled that, last July, the African Union Assembly reiterated its deep concern over the security situation, highlighting that the Chairs of the African Union High-level Committee and the African Union Commission agreed to relaunch preparations for the national reconciliation conference with all relevant stakeholders. Expressing concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation, he called on all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law. South Africa, through its own liberation struggle, understands first-hand the importance of including women in the peace process, and thus welcomes the work of the Presidency Council’s Women Empowerment and Support Unit to advance gender equality.
Mr. SCHULZ (Germany) said the first political priority must be the National Conference, which at last would provide an inclusive opportunity for Libyans to unblock the political process. Unfortunately, the current stalemate has many beneficiaries. “We should expect attempts to spoil the process from many sides,” he warned, stressing the importance for the international community to stand behind the Special Representative. If necessary, the Security Council must be ready to put pressure on those working to derail the process, including through targeted sanctions. The political process cannot deliver results in a vacuum. Institution-building is a complementary second priority, although it requires time-consuming and technical efforts. Germany stands ready to provide substantial support. A third priority must be economic reform, in particular, exchange rates and subsidies, as well as the fight against fuel smuggling and currency fraud. He also highlighted the need to increase women’s participation in the political process, curb the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons, and fully respect human rights.
DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) expressed concern that the people of Libya — a beautiful mosaic of rich traditions from Berber, African, Turkish and Arab cultures — have suffered from insecurity, fractured politics, violence and terrorism. All State and non-State actors, as well as regional and international communities must learn from the past and fully embrace the Libyan Political Agreement. National reconciliation must be prioritized. Having one authoritative Government with a united army, security agencies and financial and economic institutions is crucial to stabilizing the country and preparing it for a democratic electoral process. The National Conference, to be held under the United Nations auspices early this year, will provide an opportunity for Libyan political groups to outline their ideas. It is necessary to improve the security situation, which was exacerbated by the existence of separate power centres in Tripoli and the east, as well as the fight over oil and other resources. The Council must exert its influence fully with various national and external actors to resolve the conflict.
JONATHAN R. COHEN (United States) said the status quo is unsustainable, expressing support for a recalibrated Mission, plans for elections and the proposed National Conference. Urging all Libyans to do their part to break the political deadlock, he said the United States stood ready to lend assistance. There can be no military solution and the United States will make every effort to help. Monetary reforms and related efforts will lead to a more equitable distribution of economic gains, he said, emphasizing that Libyan petroleum belongs to the Libyan people and condemning its illicit trade. He also condemned those stymying progress, highlighting recent additions of several individuals to the sanctions list.
FRANCISCO TENYA (Peru) said recent incidents are fuelling an unsustainable situation. Commending UNSMIL efforts to hold a National Conference, he anticipated tangible results in the coming weeks to decrease tensions and foster conditions for productive dialogue. Highlighting gains, including economic recovery efforts and choking off funding for terrorist groups, he hoped equal attention is being paid to the horrible humanitarian conditions and the prevention of violence. The international community must play its role in supporting such efforts, he said, expressing Peru’s support for a political solution to the crisis.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) underlined the importance that Libyan actors respect electoral outcomes and support efforts to tackle persistent terrorist threats, clashes and dire humanitarian conditions across the country. Commending the Special Representative’s work, he said urgent steps were required, including continued economic reform. Those threatening peace and rebuilding efforts must be listed under the current sanctions regime, with the Council remaining involved in this regard. He called for all parties to adhere to human rights laws to protect refugees and migrants. The status quo is a “shared enemy”, opening the door to trafficking and other crimes, he said, urging stakeholders to work towards breaking the political stalemate. Fostering stability depended on adopting an integrated political, economic and security strategy with an ambitious timetable.
MARC PECSTEEN DE BUYTSWERVE (Belgium) voiced support for the Special Representative’s efforts to convene a National Conference and called on all actors to cooperate with UNSMIL to ensure that it is a success. Only a political solution can end the violence and help build robust institutions for the benefit of all Libyans. The lack of a political solution is fostering a resurgence of terrorist groups, including Da’esh, underscoring the plight of children used by armed groups who have been stripped of their freedom and used in prisoner exchanges. Children must be protected. Priority attention must focus on ending fuel subsidies and crafting a responsible national budget for 2019.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) said the international community must, as always, help Libya through its transitional phase while respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Its political process must be Libyan-owned and Libyan-led. Countries with influence must urge the parties concerned to refrain from the use of force and strive for national unity, as well as effective governance. The international community must also support the Government in addressing the issue of migrants and refugees. Calling on Libya’s neighbours, the African Union, European Union and others to step up cooperation with the United Nations in implementing the action plan, he said sanctions should always serve the settlement of political issues. Caution should be exercised to avert any impact on civilians or other countries, he said, adding that the Sanctions Committee must expedite work on addressing Libya’s legitimate concerns.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity to stress that weapons trafficking is fostering insecurity in the south and west of Libya, demonstrating the weakness of the State. Security entities must be strengthened in ways that enable authorities to act in a coordinated manner. The National Conference can help find a way out of the political stalemate, serving as a reference point for elections based on clear ideas of what Libyans need. He called on political actors to fulfil their commitments and enact legislation for parliamentary and presidential elections. The restructure of State institutions cannot be avoided, he said, adding that the political process must be fair and inclusive, with women playing a vital role. He welcomed that in resolution 2441 (2018) sexual violence and gender-based violence had been included as sanctions designation criteria.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya), expressing hope about fruitful results from the proposed National Conference, emphasized the critical importance of stakeholders pledging firm commitments to its outcomes. He also hoped the Council would be able to end foreign interference in Libya which is influencing Libyan parties and preventing the country from reaching solutions. More broadly, he said terrorist operations continue to pose grave threats and the international support must assist Libya in tackling this scourge, including by sharing intelligence. In addition, without security arrangements nationwide, armed groups will continue to derail efforts to rebuild the country. The Council must take all necessary measures to support security agencies, including by easing the arms embargo, which would allow related institutions to acquire the equipment needed to combat terrorist and armed groups.
Turning to the issue of migration, he expressed concerns about unfair reports accusing Libyans of slavery and xenophobia and targeting the Libyan Coast Guard. This campaign aims at tarnishing Libya’s reputation rather than help migrants at a time when criminal armed groups are capitalizing on instability in country and violating many related laws. Noting that Libya has been on the Council’s agenda since 2011, he expressed hope that members will adopt practical and decisive initiatives that respect its sovereignty and address the issue of those working against efforts to foster stability.