Government of National Accord Ready to Work with International Community in Ending Terrorism, Representative Says
The Security Council convened an emergency meeting today, roundly condemning a car bomb explosion in Libya that killed two United Nations staff members and injured scores of others, including civilians, in the northern port city of Benghazi.
Briefing the 15 members on the events, Bintou Keita, Assistant Special Representative for Africa, said the 10 August blast occurred during preparations for Eid al-Adha in an area under the control of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army forces — highlighting the limits of that command in the absence of one Government and one military and police force working across the country.
“The United Nations does not intend to evacuate from Libya,” she said. “For the foreseeable future our place remains alongside the Libyan people.” She welcomed the agreement by Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and General Haftar to respect the truce called for by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, beginning now and lasting through Eid al-Adha.
Urging parties to seize this opportunity as a first step, she said it is essential that the truce is then deepened — notably through confidence-building measures such as exchanges of prisoners or mortal remains, visits to prisoners or phone calls. Parties would then move quickly towards an international meeting, recommitting to a road map to transition Libya back to the peaceful, democratic process. A meeting of Libyans themselves would soon follow.
Ground conditions across Libya require a detente, she said. Simmering intercommunal tensions in Murzuq, exacerbated by 4 August Libyan National Army airstrikes, offer a lens into the environment throughout the country: the absence of State institutions manifested in the absence of services, a near total lack of governance, a dearth of impartial security forces and fading hope. The Council must ensure the truce takes place, not only in areas under the control of specific security forces, but also in areas where there is no clear security actor.
In the ensuing discussion, delegates denounced the attack on the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) convoy and pressed for an investigation by local authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice. There is no military solution to the conflict, many insisted. Several speakers praised the Government of National Accord and General Haftar’s forces for agreeing to uphold the truce, calling it a first step on the road to a permanent ceasefire.
France’s representative, whose delegation requested today’s meeting, said the truce will allow civilians to leave conflict areas and aid to reach those in need. The ultimate solution, however, is a lasting ceasefire reached as part of a political process relaunched under the Special Representative’s auspices. She pressed Libyan parties to resume discussions on this basis, so that any agreement reached meets the expectations of all parties, based on the Paris and Palermo principles. She also expressed support for the press statement proposed by the United Kingdom on the events.
“We all need to call, with a unified voice, for the truce to take place and to be followed by a ceasefire,” said the United Kingdom’s representative. The Council must implement the arms embargo, call on all States to do so, hold accountable groups who violate its resolutions or reject the United Nations-led process, and return to national and local dialogue.
Several delegates, including from Belgium, Germany and the Dominican Republic, urged Member States to respect the arms embargo, with Equatorial Guinea’s delegate meanwhile pointing out that third-party agendas are prevailing over the interests of Libyans themselves. Côte d’Ivoire’s representative stressed that arms shipments to the parties, in stark violation of the embargo, are another source of concern.
The Russian Federation’s delegate said there is no alternative to a political solution and re-establishment of effective State institutions. Stressing that the illegal spread of weapons undermines security not only in Libya, but in the entire Sahel and Sahara regions, he cautioned against steps that could complicate cooperation among key political players.
Offering a national perspective, Libya’s representative said the Government of National Accord stands ready to cooperate with the international community to end terrorism. Today’s attack follows the abduction two weeks ago of Parliament member Siham Sergiwa, whose fate is unknown — refuting claims that the so-called Libyan army has eradicated terrorism in Benghazi and is ending it in other places.
“The truth is, what is happening is the total opposite,” he said. The Presidential Council stated its willingness to accept the truce — provided that it includes all fighting areas, that all direct and indirect shooting stops, that no military advance takes place, that all aviation activities are prohibited, that the truce is not misused to move soldiers or mobilize power, and that UNSMIL guarantees its implementation and monitors any violations.
The Council began the meeting by observing a moment of silence in tribute to the victims of the Benghazi attack and their families.
Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, United States, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Peru and Poland.
The meeting began at 4:45 p.m. and ended at 5:53 p.m.
BINTOU KEITA, Assistant Special Representative for Africa, informed the Council about a car bomb explosion that took place in Benghazi, killing two United Nations staff members and injuring three others. Scores of Libyans were also injured. The attack occurred during preparations for Eid al-Adha in an area supposedly under full security control of General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army forces. The events highlight the danger of terrorism, as well as the limits of security control in the absence of one Government and one military and police force working across the country. They also confirm that the hostilities are creating a vacuum easily exploited by radical elements who thrive on chaos and violence.
“The United Nations does not intend to evacuate from Libya,” she said. “For the foreseeable future our place remains alongside the Libyan people.” She welcomed that Prime Minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj and General Haftar’s Libyan National Army forces have agreed to the 29 July call by Ghassan Salame, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for a truce to be respected during Eid al-Adha, beginning this evening. She expressed hope that both sides will abide by their public commitment. “Senseless and absurd violence needs to stop,” she said, stressing that the United Nations has made clear that no party can emerge as the winner. There are already many losers, the majority of whom are innocent Libyan civilians.
She said this message has resonated both with Libyans directly party to the conflict and to those international and regional stakeholders in Libya who have seen that, after four months, there is no quick military win capable of resolving the complex situation. Terrorism cannot be fought under such circumstances, nor can illegal migration be adequately addressed or Libya’s substantial economic potential be realized. In the days leading up to the truce, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) worked to build confidence between the parties, she said, noting that the proposed exchange of prisoners, exchange of mortal remains and visits to prisoners or phone calls are immediate measures that could lower tensions and allow the truce to take place.
Urging parties to seize this opportunity as a first step in returning to a broader political process, she said it is essential that the truce is both deepened and strengthened, through these confidence-building measures, and that parties move quickly towards an international meeting to recommit to a road map that would transition Libya back to the peaceful, democratic process. A meeting of Libyans themselves would soon follow. The Council’s statement supporting the call for a truce was certainly an important demonstration of international unity as was the Special Representative’s commitment to his three-point initiative to end the conflict. The public and private support of key Member States has also played a considerable role.
She went on to stress that the situation on the ground necessitates a truce across the country. Southern Libya’s brutal descent into chaos and intercommunal feuds is a disturbing harbinger of what could ensue should the conflict persist. Simmering intercommunal tensions between Tebu and Ahali groups in Murzuq, exacerbated by a nationwide political polarization, took a turn for the worse on 4 August, when three Libyan National Army airstrikes against Tebu elements resulted in some 45 fatalities. Murzuq suffers from the same environment as much of Libya: An absence of State institutions manifested in the absence of services, an almost total lack of governance, a lack of impartial security forces and an absence of hope. It is essential that the intercommunal violence in Murzuq not spread elsewhere in the south, she said, urging the Council to express its support to ensure the truce takes place, not only in areas under the control of specific security forces but also in areas where there is no clear security actor.
Recalling that lawmaker Siham Sergewa was abducted from her home in Benghazi on 17 July and has not been heard from since, she said “this unacceptable attack on a female lawmaker constitutes a serious crime against women and the prospect for women playing a role in political life in Libya”. She again demanded that authorities in Benghazi assume their responsibility and find those responsible for this abduction, which took place in front of Ms. Sergewa’s family.
ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said it was important for the Council to urgently meet today, given the events unfolding in Libya. The conflict is at a critical stage. She condemned in the strongest terms the attack on the UNSMIL convoy in Benghazi and asked that the circumstances be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice. Welcoming the truce that was accepted by both sides as a first step to create the conditions needed to move towards a lasting political solution, she recalled that the Council on 29 July called on Libyan parties to work with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to conclude a truce during Eid, and on 5 August, reaffirmed that appeal in a press statement. Since then, France and its partners have worked tirelessly to conclude the truce.
She called on both parties to uphold the truce throughout Libya’s territory, stressing that there can be no military solution to the crisis. The only beneficiaries of continued fighting are criminals and terrorists. The truce is essential to ensure that civilians can leave conflict areas and humanitarian assistance reaches those in need. It can be accompanied by confidence-building measures to lead to a lasting ceasefire based on credible guarantees. To be sure, the implementation of a durable ceasefire — part of a political process relaunched under the auspices of the Special Representative — is the solution and she urged the Council to do its utmost to help achieve it. She called on Libyan parties to resume discussions on this basis, under the auspices of the Special Representative, so that agreement is reached that meets the expectations of all parties, based on the Paris, Palermo and other principles. That will require security and economic reforms, along with transparent governance of the central bank and reform of the national oil company, ensuring that economic benefits reach all Libyans. Further, all Council resolutions must be upheld, notably the arms embargo, she said, urging all parties to move towards a comprehensive political solution and expressing support for the press statement proposed by the United Kingdom.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom) condemned in strongest terms the attack on the UNSMIL convoy — an appalling act that should be investigated with the perpetrators identified and held to account. It is a great disrespect to Libyans to conduct such an assault on Eid al-Adha. Until now, the Council had high hopes for the truce called for by the Special Representative. She urged all the parties to ensure that the truce holds and commit to confidence-building measures. She reiterated full support for Special Representative and agreed that this is a critical moment in the conflict. She pressed parties to commit to a permanent ceasefire and return to political dialogue, stressing that there can be no military solution. She saluted the United Nations for not evacuating in the face of these dangers. “We all need to call, with a unified voice, for the truce to take place and to be followed by a ceasefire,” she said. The Council must implement the arms embargo, call on all States to do so, hold accountable groups who violate its resolutions and do not support the United Nations-led process, and return to national and local dialogue.
KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) condemned the attack in Benghazi, noting that it is the responsibility of local authorities to identify and convict the criminals behind it. Indeed, international humanitarian law has been violated flagrantly in recent days, and civilians have been the first victims. She denounced the recent attacks on Tripoli airport and the 5 August airstrike on Murzuq, a new sign that fighting extends far beyond the capital. She recalled Belgium’s commitment to ensuring that such crimes do not go unpunished, whether before national courts or the International Criminal Court. Acceptance of the truce by the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army must be respected, and she urged parties to transform the pause in fighting into a lasting ceasefire. Political dialogue must resume, without conditions and with mediation by the Special Representative, “to bring Libya out of the military logic”, she said, urging respect for the arms embargo and an end to weapons deliveries.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) deplored the attack in Benghazi and urged the Council to support the Special Representative’s facilitation of a political process that would involve ensuring aid to those in need. The difficult humanitarian situation is exacerbated by military operations around Tripoli, he said, stressing that aid must arrive in a non-discriminatory manner. The Council must be united in its support for the truce and call on parties to uphold it hand-in-hand with confidence-building measures. There is no military solution to the crisis, he said, urging Libyan parties to build on the truce, demonstrate restraint and respect international humanitarian law and human rights. He welcomed their willingness to reach a political agreement, in line with Paris and Palermo principles, and encouraged them to cooperate with the United Nations.
JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) strongly condemned the attack in Benghazi and looked forward to the results of the investigation by local authorities in the belief that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. He expressed Germany’s firm support for UNSMIL and the Special Representative, drawing attention to the extremely high number of people who have lost their lives, been injured or displaced since hostilities broke out in April. He welcomed the parties’ decision to honour the truce announced on 29 July as a first step. They must now heed the Council’s message that the truce must hold, paving the way for resumed negotiations. All international actors should impress upon the parties the importance of preserving the truce, he said, underscoring the imperative that all Libyan parties commit to a permanent ceasefire, and return to the United Nations-facilitated process leading to peace, stability and unified institutions. Indeed, all parties must return to the negotiating table. He expressed support for the Special Representative’s three-point plan and asked all international actors to support its implementation as well as respect the arms embargo and all Council resolutions.
JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic), condemning the attack on UNSMIL in Benghazi, urged authorities to investigate and bring those responsible to justice. Recalling an attack on a detention centre in Tajoura, and his warning since May that the lethal nature of violence in Libya continues to increase, he said external aid, which clearly flouts the arms embargo, only exacerbates the crisis. “The Council must act on these violations,” he said, urging all parties to respect the sanctity of Eid and to not interfere with the safe return of pilgrims. He expressed hope that the ceasefire brokered by UNSMIL — to which the parties have committed — would allow for a re-evaluation of strategies. He demanded that the ceasefire be maintained, with a return to dialogue fostered by the United Nations. There is no military solution to the conflict. “The parties must recognize this,” he insisted. Aggressive forces must protect civilians and their infrastructure, and allow humanitarian aid to reach those in need, in line with international humanitarian law and human rights.
JONATHAN COHEN (United States) strongly condemned the attack in Benghazi, saying it underscores the need for an immediate reduction in violence and prompt return to the United Nations-mediated political process. He welcomed the call for a truce and commitments from Libyan parties to halt military activities during the Eid al-Adha holiday. All should take steps to reduce the violence and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. He urged the sides to support confidence-building measures as steps that could lead to a sustainable ceasefire and inclusive dialogue. They must also allow humanitarian access via protected corridors. Durable peace requires a political solution.
GBOLIÉ DÉSIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) condemned in the strongest terms the attack in Benghazi, calling for those responsible to be brought to trial. The crisis is at an impasse and he urged the Council to press the belligerents to accept a ceasefire. Expressing strong concern about the impact of the fighting on the integrity of UNSMIL, as well as on the security and humanitarian situations and the political process, he went on to say that arms shipments to the parties, in violation of the embargo, are another source of serious concern, as they reduce the chances of a ceasefire and resumed dialogue. He welcomed General Haftar’s acceptance of the truce and that the Government of National Accord is working to ease the suffering. Such commitments must be put into action and the truce must be extended.
YAO SHAOJUN (China) strongly condemned the car bombing in Benghazi. Nearly two weeks ago, the Special Representative proposed a three-point plan for ending the conflict, which included an appeal to parties to respect a humanitarian truce. He welcomed that the Government of National Accord’s Presidential Council announced its conditional acceptance of the truce, and that the Libyan National Army announced a halt to military operations, expressing hope that all parties would uphold their commitments and continue to respond positively to the three-point proposal. Indeed, the eight-year conflict has impacted both Libya and its neighbours, and threatened international peace and security. He urged Libyan parties to focus on national interests and to work for a peaceful settlement through political dialogue. To this end, the international community should support the United Nations-facilitated political settlement process and the Special Representative; respect Libya’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; and promote peace talks as a way to enable a ceasefire and restart political dialogue.
KGAUGELO THERMINA MOGASHOA (South Africa), condemning the car bombing in Benghazi, called on all parties to turn the humanitarian truce into a permanent ceasefire. She expressed deep concern about the human cost of the battle for Tripoli, in which 1,100 people have been killed and more than 100,000 have been displaced. Equally dire is the price being paid by African migrants seeking to cross the Mediterranean, she said, recalling that the Open Arms humanitarian ship remains stuck in those waters for the ninth day with no European Government offering safe harbour to the 121 migrants on board. She pressed the Council to treat all issues related to the conflict in Libya with the same sense of urgency. “All human life matters equally,” she insisted. It must support the agreement between the Government of National Accord and General Haftar, as the truce opens an opportunity to encourage parties to return to negotiations.
MUHSIN SYIHAB (Indonesia) condemned in the strongest terms the attack in Benghazi, noting that as a contributor of personnel to United Nations missions, Indonesia “feels the loss of the fallen”. He called for an immediate investigation into this attack, bringing the perpetrators to justice, and for all conflicting parties to respect international humanitarian law and human rights, reaffirming full support for the Special Representative and UNSMIL in restoring a unified international position on Libya to end its crisis. He welcomed the three-step proposal to end the conflict, as well as the decision by both parties to respect the truce during Eid al-Adha. No efforts should be spared to nurture confidence-building measures. Underscoring the important role of UNSMIL, he called for sustaining confidence-building steps and urged those with influence to entice the parties back to the negotiating table as soon as possible. He reiterated the call — in line with the Council’s 5 July and 5 August press statements — for all States to refrain from measures that would exacerbate the conflict and appealed for Council unity.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea) condemned the car bomb attack in Benghazi in which United Nations staff were killed. Calling for a thorough investigation into the events and for bringing the perpetrators to justice, he expressed strong support for the Special Representative. Recalling the attack on a detention centre in Tajoura in which 59 migrants died, he said there is no military solution to the conflict — only dialogue led by Libyans and supported by the United Nations in coordination with the African Union. International humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld, hostilities must end and the Council’s arms embargo must be respected. Stressing that the conflict is being affected by the agenda of third parties, rather than by the United Nations, he said the interests of Libyans themselves are not the top priority, sending the wrong message to those suffering, including migrants. Third parties external to the conflict are playing a negative — and leading — role. “Ultimately, we’re talking about the loss of innocent lives, especially among the most vulnerable,” he asserted.
GERARDO TALAVERA (Peru) condemned the attacks in Benghazi and expressed profound sorrow over the death of United Nations staff and civilians. The conflict is leading to a vacuum occupied by terrorist groups. He expressed support for the Special Representative’s three-point plan with hopes that the truce will be strictly respected, and followed by high-level meetings, and finally, internal dialogue led by Libyans themselves. He urged parties to return to dialogue, as the military solution only leads to death. Parties with influence must act immediately, setting aside any economic or strategic considerations so as to foster unconditional respect for international law.
DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation), condemning the terrorist attack, recalled that several hundred migrants traveling from Libya to Europe drowned three weeks ago after the boats carrying them capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. “Every human life is valuable and important,” he said. Indeed, the worst predictions are coming to pass: terrorists are becoming more active, as jihadists from Syria and Iraq reach Libya. Joint efforts are needed to fight that universal evil. It is also important to set aside double standards and “not try to flirt with radicals” or politicize the situation. While he expressed concern about illegal immigration, he said sanctions will not resolve the problem. Massive migrations are due, first and foremost, to unfortunate economic situations caused by conflict. The factors that lead people to migrate must be addressed.
He went on to urge those behind the 2011 incursion into Libya — a “geopolitical adventure” — to understand their responsibility for the breakdown of the State and the terrorist chaos now affecting its neighbours. There is no alternative to a political solution and the re-establishment of effective State institutions. With distrust persisting among the belligerents, United Nations mediation efforts are most important. He called for ending military operations and urged parties to refrain from aggressive statements. Libyan parties must act with restraint and he expressed hope that the truce will last. Stressing that the illegal spread of weapons undermines security not only in Libya, but in the entire Sahel and Sahara region, he cautioned against steps that could complicate the resumption of dialogue and cooperation among key political players. Also, efforts to determine the guilt of belligerents are counter-productive and should be avoided.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland) condemned in the strongest terms today’s attack in Benghazi resulting in the deaths of United Nations staff. Those responsible must be brought to justice. She regretted that the terror attack began on Eid, demonstrating full cessation of hostilities is of utmost importance. She expressed full support to the Special Representative and UNSMIL under extremely challenging circumstances to bring about stability and national unity in Libya. And likewise support for the statement proposed by the United Kingdom.
ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said the Government of National Accord strongly condemns the cowardly attack that killed two and injured eight United Nations staff, as well as other Libyans. It renews its commitment to fighting terrorism in all its forms and stands ready to fully cooperate with the international community to end this epidemic, in line with agreed international and regional mechanisms. The attack follows the abduction two weeks ago of Parliament member Siham Sergiwa, whose fate is unknown — actions that refute claims that the so-called Libyan army has eradicated terrorism in Benghazi and is ending it in other places.
“The truth is, what is happening is the total opposite,” he said, stressing that the aggression on Tripoli and its outskirts has led to grave human and financial losses. It has displaced 100,000 citizens, damaged infrastructure and exacerbated suffering. In response to the Special Representative’s call for a truce, the Government of National Accord’s Presidential Council stated its willingness to accept it — provided that the truce includes all fighting areas, that all direct and indirect shooting stops, that no military advance takes place, that all aviation activities are prohibited, that the truce is not misused to move soldiers or mobilize power, and that UNSMIL guarantees its implementation and monitors any violations. Reaffirming that there is no military solution to the crisis, he said peaceful political dialogue among Libyans is the only way to establish security and stability in the country.