With foreign interference surging, front lines between combatants shifting, tens of thousands fleeing their homes and the threat of COVID-19 looming large, a negotiated solution to the crisis in Libya — now in its tenth year — is more urgent than ever, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council in a 8 July videoconference meeting* dedicated to the situation in the North African country.
More than 30 speakers participated in the meeting, convened by Germany, Council President for July, six months after the Berlin Conference on Libya where foreign leaders pledged not to interfere in Tripoli’s affairs, recommitted to the arms embargo that the Council established through resolution 1970 (2011) and reaffirmed their support for a Libyan-owned and Libyan-led peace process.
“Time is not on our side in Libya,” the Secretary-General said, explaining that the conflict has entered a new phase, with foreign interference reaching unprecedented levels, including in the delivery of sophisticated equipment and the presence of mercenaries engaged in the fighting.
Since 19 May, when the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Stephanie Turco Williams, briefed the Council, units of the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord, “with significant external support”, continued their advance eastwards against the opposition Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar. Those units now are 25 kilometres west of the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte and the situation on the front lines has been mostly quiet since 10 June.
“However, we are very concerned about the alarming military build-up around the city and the high level of direct foreign interference in the conflict in violation of the United Nations arms embargo, Security Council resolutions and the commitments made by Member States in Berlin,” he said. Given the gloomy context, all opportunities to unblock the political stalemate must be seized, he said, adding that UNSMIL is undertaking de-escalation efforts — including the creation of a possible demilitarized zone — to reach a negotiated settlement and save lives.
In eastern Libya, the political situation has registered some movements that indicate renewed support for a political solution, as seen by a 23 May initiative by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the 6 June Cairo Declaration, drafted by Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and leaders of the Libyan National Army, which called for a ceasefire. For its part, the Government of National Accord has called for national elections. The Secretary-General warned, however, that such openings are fragile, given the impact of military developments and support from external backers.
Meanwhile, he continued, developments on the ground have prompted an agreement to reconvene the UNSMIL-facilitated 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, which held a third round of talks in June focusing on several areas of convergence, including the departure of foreign mercenaries, counter-terrorism cooperation, disarmament and demobilization of armed groups, and modalities for a ceasefire mechanism. “The United Nations will continue working with the parties to reach a ceasefire and resume a political process,” he said, adding that, in recent days, he has spoken by telephone with Prime Minister Faiez Mustafa Serraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, urging them to engage fully to ensure a ceasefire and advance the political process. At the same time, the United Nations, African Union and the League of Arab States, with others, will continue to work closely together, he said, urging the Council to lend its collective support, as well.
With respect to the process that emerged from the Berlin Conference on Libya on 19 January, the Secretary-General said a fourth meeting of the Plenary of the International Follow-up Committee is scheduled for July, with working groups already contributing to UNSMIL’s efforts to facilitate a Libyan-led and Libyan‑owned dialogue.
Turning to the humanitarian impact of the conflict, the Secretary-General said that almost 30,000 people fled their homes as a result of fighting in Tripoli’s southern suburbs and in Tarhouna, bringing the total number of internally displaced to more than 400,000. Many civilians were killed or injured by improvised explosive devices reportedly planted by the Libyan National Army and associated mercenaries as they withdrew. Between 1 April and 30 June, UNSMIL document at least 102 civilian deaths and 254 civilian injuries, an increase of 172 per cent from the first three months of 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) has meanwhile documented at least 21 attacks on medical facilities, ambulances and personnel. Expressing shock at the discovery of mass graves after the Government of National Accord retook Tarhouna, he welcomed the Human Rights Council’s decision to set up a fact-finding mission into human rights violations and noted the International Criminal Court’s readiness to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. The United Nations stands ready to advise on the conduct of investigations and the securing of mass graves, he said.
He went on to say that, one year after an air strike on the Tajoura Detention Centre killed at least 52 migrants and injured 87 others, migrants and asylum seekers in Libya still face arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, abduction for ransom, forced labour and unlawful killings. “I am also deeply concerned about the risks faced by migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who continue to attempt to cross the Mediterranean,” he said, urging the authorities to find alternatives to detention, as well as more sustainable solutions for migrants and refugees. COVID-19 is also a growing concern, he added, with a seven-fold increase in cases in June alone. The true scale of the pandemic is likely much higher than the reported 1,046 confirmed cases and 32 deaths, he said, adding that Libya’s capacity to test, trace, isolate and treat people must be strengthened.
Turning to economic aspects, he said that the blockage of Libyan oil port facilities that began in January has so far cost more than $6 billion in lost revenues and created conditions for a budget deficit exceeding 50 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Noting that the National Oil Corporation is calling for all armed groups to exit Libyan oil facilities, he expressed confidence that the Council will support efforts to lift the blockade. He also called on the Council to ensure that an international audit of two branches of the Central Bank of Libya — obstructed by several key officials — begins soon. He concluded by saying that he is counting on the Council to expedite the designation of a new Special Representative, which would greatly facilities UNSMIL’s work.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers echoed the call for a halt for foreign interference in Libya, demanded an end to the fighting and urged the warring sides to resume peace talks under United Nations auspices. Several called for the appointment of a new Special Representative to succeed Ghassan Salamé, who took up the position in April 2017 and stepped down in March 2020.
Heiko Maas, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, spoke in his national capacity, saying that, six months after the Berlin Conference, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. While the rest of the world was fighting the coronavirus, hospitals in Libya came under bombardment, while weapons and mercenaries arrived in Libyan cities. “It is time to stop this cynical absurdity,” he said, explaining why all participants in the Berlin process were invited to today’s meeting. Foreign interference remains the main driver of the conflict in Libya and it must end. That means no more aircraft, tanks or ships full of weapons “and no more lies”. Targeted sanctions and other measures will be used to ensure that Libya is no longer the battleground in a foreign war. He added that backdoor deals that enable foreign actors to carve out spheres of influence must stop. Instead, the international community must unite behind UNSMIL and United Nations-led peace efforts to help Libya’s people find a political solution, achieve lasting peace, and preserve the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. “The current calm on Libya’s battlefields is more than fragile,” he said, emphasizing the Council’s duty to translate that calm into a negotiated ceasefire within the framework of the United Nations 5+5 talks. A de‑militarized solution for Sirte and Jufra could be an important first step, he said, calling on all parties in Libya — and all Council members — to unite behind that idea. “Today, the time has come to put our words into action,” he said.
Wang Yi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said that the ongoing conflict in Libya opens the door to rampant terrorism, weapons proliferation and massive refugee outflows. The international community must translate consensus into action, turn vision into reality on the ground and bring peace to Libya’s people as soon as possible. Achieving a comprehensive ceasefire and cessation of violence should be the immediate priority, he said, adding that all countries must honour Council resolutions, refrain from getting involved in the conflict or meddling in Libya’s internal affairs, and strictly enforce the arms embargo. The principle of a Libyan‑led and Libyan-owned peace process must be upheld, with the United Nations serving as the main channel of mediation and the League of Arab States and African Union encouraged to play an important role. “What we can learn from the decade-long turmoil in Libya is that attempts aimed at so-called regime change only spark turbulence, and that military intervention only opens the door to endless trouble,” he said.
Kalla Ankourao, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation, African Integration and Nigeriens Abroad of Niger, said that respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity continues to be severely tested in Libya, where external interference is fuelling tensions and undermining international efforts to restore a Libyan-driven political process. Growing instability in the Sahel is due in part to the deplorable situation in Libya. All participants in the Berlin process must honour their commitments, refrain from interfering in Libya’s internal affairs and enable the conditions for a humanitarian ceasefire. “It cannot be said enough: Libya does not need weapons; it does not need mercenaries; nor does it need to be the theatre for the expression of the will to power of certain international actors.” What Libya needs is reconciliation, peace and prosperity, he said, underscoring the important role of the Council, African Union, League of Arab States, European Union and others, as well as the urgent need to appoint a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Particular attention must be paid to the situation of African migrants in detention camps, who are often used as combatants or human shields by armed groups. Hopefully, the European Union’s IRINI operation will continue to limit the flow of arms into Libya, including through land borders. “External interference will only exacerbate the crisis, thus further delaying the political solution, which is the only path of enabling the Libyans to take control of their country’s destiny,” he said, adding that only resolute action by the Council — aimed at establishing responsibilities and identifying the real culprits — will stop the consequences of the international community’s unacceptable inertia there.
Noureddine Erray, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tunisia, said that the military escalation in Libya and the lack of progress in the political process represent a direct and serious threat to regional and global peace and security. Tunisia has been proactive in warning against the unfolding of the crisis, the deterioration of the security situation and especially the fuelling and prolonging of the conflict due to the external interference. He reiterated his country’s support for any comprehensive intra-Libyan dialogue under United Nations auspices, adding that, hopefully, the political path will soon be relaunched. The nomination of a new Special Representative would give the parties a fresh incentive to rebuild trust. He stressed the need to respect international humanitarian law and human rights law and called on all parties to ensure the safety of civilians, especially women and children. Due attention must also be given to the situation of migrants and refugees. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the suffering of Libya’s people. Such a challenge cannot be faced and contained through individual efforts, he emphasized, calling for a humanitarian truce in Libya and the resumption of constructive dialogue.
Naledi Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, said that the increased military build-up, intensified by foreign intervention and coupled with ongoing hostilities, has killed and injured innocent civilians, in particular women and children. The recent discovery of mass graves in and around Tarhouna bares evidence as to the nature of the atrocities being committed, she said, welcoming that there will be an investigation into these atrocities. Urging the parties to the conflict to heed the call of the Secretary‑General and the African Union for an immediate ceasefire, she welcomed the bloc’s decision to convene an inter-Libyan Reconciliation Conference in Addis Ababa later in 2020. “There can be no military solution to the conflict in Libya and the continued political meddling and military interference by external actors in the affairs of Libya must come to an end,” she said.
James Cleverly, Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa of the United Kingdom, said that, six months after the Berlin Conference, some countries are still arming and supplying their proxies in flagrant violation of the arms embargo. Expressing shock at disturbing reports of mass graves in Tarhouna, he said that Libya’s authorities must secure those sites until a proper investigation can be conducted. “The persistent climate of impunity in Libya must be addressed.” He encouraged all parties to fully cooperate with the independent audit of two central bank branches and welcomed United Nations-led efforts to end the blockade of Libyan oil facilities. He went on to express concern at reports of the Wagner Group and other foreign mercenaries entering Libyan oil fields. “Wagner Group activities exacerbate the conflict, as does all external military support, including the provision of mercenaries and arms, and deployments of combat aircraft.” Nevertheless, there now is a window of opportunity to make real progress and change Libya’s troubled trajectory. Rather than emphasizing maximalist goals and red lines, the parties should engage constructively in talks to agree on a viable ceasefire, with international backers recognizing that their interests lie in meeting their Berlin commitments, he said.
France’s representative said that “the risks of regional escalation and a ‘Syrianization’ of Libya are real”, expressing worries that, despite the relative calm and the stabilization of the front line on the Sirte-Joufra axis, the military reinforcement of both camps continued. A further security deterioration would threaten Libya’s interests and risk destabilizing its neighbours and Europe. It would also undermine progress in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. Foreign interferences in Libya must stop and the arms embargo, established by the Council, must be fully respected. Expressing full support for the European Union operation aimed at ensuring the implementation of the embargo, he pointed to an urgent need to transform the current freeze of fighting into a solid truce and make progress towards a lasting and credible ceasefire in the framework of the 5+5 Military Committee under the aegis of UNSMIL. Any initiative in support of a ceasefire agreement and a negotiated political settlement must be fully inclusive and consistent with the principles of the Berlin Conference, which remains the only viable international framework. It is also important to establish a credible mechanism for monitoring Libyan oil revenues to ensure that they benefit the country’s people, not the militias, he said, calling on the Secretary-General to appoint a new Special Representative as soon as possible.
The representative of the United States underscored her country’s opposition to all foreign military intervention in Libya. Finalizing an immediate ceasefire is key, alongside compliance with the United Nations arms embargo by all Member States, including Council members. All external actors should abide by the commitments they made in Berlin, immediately suspend military operations, stop transferring foreign military equipment and fighters to Libya, and allow local authorities to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Let me be clear: there is no place for foreign mercenaries or proxy forces in Libya, including — as evidence makes clear — Russian Government proxies fighting alongside and in support of LNA [Libyan National Army] forces.” She emphasized the significance of Sirte and Al Jufra for the control of Libya’s oil crescent, adding that the United States is closely monitoring the movement of Wagner mercenaries and their aligned foreign fighters from Sudan and elsewhere to oil facilities in the south of Libya. “We have received reports that they have installed military equipment and mines to assist their forced takeover of the sites. These are examples of the continued violations of the arms embargo and clear violations of Libyan sovereignty.” Instead of sending proxy forces and military equipment to control oil facilities, the parties must allow the National Oil Corporation to resume its operations immediately. Welcoming the establishment of an international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, she said that a culture of impunity in Libya has gone on for far too long, as evidenced by the horrific discovery of eight mass grave sites in areas vacated by the Libyan National Army. She went on to say that reforming UNSMIL now would be a good chance to capitalize on changes on the battlefield to bring about a permanent Libyan-led, Libyan-owned political settlement and to reinforce the commitments made in Berlin.
The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines expressed support for UNSMIL, calling on the Secretary-General to appoint his new Special Representative for Libya. Interference by external actors to advance narrow interests undermine constructive efforts and initiatives, she warned, emphasizing the need to respect Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity while urging external actors to refrain from taking actions that compromise ongoing negotiations. Noting that Libya’s people, especially the most vulnerable groups, continue to be adversely affected, with migrants and refugees facing torture, sexual violence, forced disappearances and trafficking. She welcomed the creation of the international fact-finding mission to Libya by the Human Rights Council, to investigate atrocity crimes and ensure accountability.
Estonia’s representative said lasting peace can only be achieved through a Libyan-owned and led political process. “The fighting needs to stop,” he insisted, stressing that, despite progress made in the Berlin process, the reality in Libya remains grim, with foreign interference a blatant violation of the sanctions regime. Calling for an end to the flow of arms, private military operatives, fighter jets and drones in the country, he expressed shock over the discovery of mass graves in Tarhouna and advocated for a thorough investigation. It is imperative that all international humanitarian and human rights law violations be addressed and that the perpetrators of such crimes be held accountable. He also expressed extreme concern that, along with the spread of COVID-19, landmines and other explosives continue to be planted.
Belgium’s representative condemned “the war logic in which the Libyan parties seem to have locked themselves in with the increasing support of external actors”. Military action must stop immediately. He welcomed the “timid steps” taken by the Joint Military Commission in the 5+5 format and urged the Government and General Hafter to engage more forcefully with UNSMIL in that forum. States supporting Libyan actors must use their influence to encourage dialogue, he added. “Most importantly, your words should be followed by concrete actions that demonstrate your commitment to the political solution.” He went on to say that there is no excuse for disrespecting the arms embargo, thus contributing to the deaths of civilians, including women, children and migrants. He also welcomed the Human Rights Council’s establishment of a fact-finding mission, saying the most serious crimes in Libya must not go unpunished.
Indonesia’s representative said that supporting the Libyans to find peace is the responsibility of all, and not only those who were in Berlin. Foreign interference must stop, and international efforts must focus on saving lives. “The shocking recent discovery of mass graves paints a grim picture of the failure to protect the innocents.” All parties must heed the call for a ceasefire and give space for humanitarian assistance. Efforts by neighbouring States and regional organizations should be further encouraged. He concluded by saying that the people of Libya have grown tired of empty narratives that have zero impact on the ground. They want the international community not to meddle, but to find political solutions and lasting peace.
The Dominican Republic’s representative said that the discovery of at least eight mass graves in June, most of them in and around Tarhuna, shows the need for the fact-finding mission established by the Human Rights Council. He expressed concern at the killing, maiming, torture and sexual abuse of children, as well as flagrant abuses of human rights directed at migrants and refugees. Women human rights defenders, peacebuilders and political leaders must be able to carry out their work without fear of retaliation. Constant violations of the arms embargo and persistent interference by external actors are creating the perfect storm for the perpetuity of the Libyan conflict, he said, calling for an end to foreign military intervention, as well as the lifting of the oil blockade.
Viet Nam’s representative called the Berlin Conference “a silver lining” to the gloomy situation, with the subsequent adoption of resolution 2510 (2020) providing hope for the pursuit of an inclusive Libyan-led and owned peace process. He called on parties to immediately stop fighting and return to peace talks, urging the Berlin Conference participants in particular to support those efforts. He also urged parties to fully respect international humanitarian law, stop targeting civilians, ensure the safety of health-care workers and allow unhindered humanitarian access. All parties — both inside and outside Libya — must also strengthen their implementation to Council resolutions, he asserted.
Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, said that it is high time to end this conflict at Europe’s doorstep and manage a proper transition in Libya, which must remain united, stable, prosperous and a reliable partner for all. Now is the time to turn the concrete commitments made in Berlin into action, working collectively under strong United Nations leadership. Polarization that has turned Libya into a theatre for proxy wars must stop, he said, adding that unilateral initiatives go against the spirit of consensual international dialogue which Libya urgently needs. “We must go back to our Berlin commitments, starting with the enforcement of the United Nations arms embargo, which unfortunately continues to be violated on all sides and every day, in all impunity.” The European Union’s Operation IRINI is tasked with implementing the arms embargo at sea, but controlling the influx of weapons requires action beyond the maritime domain, he said, recommending that the Council expands its mandate. He added that a sustainable solution must be found for the exploitation of Libya’s oil resources, noting that the country could generate in one week of oil revenues the equivalent of all the assistance that it gets from Europe.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said that incessant external military intervention, disregard for the arms embargo and the uninterrupted deployment of foreign mercenaries are exacerbating the conflict and the challenge of resolving it. He reiterated the League’s call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and withdrawal of all foreign forces. Systematic violations of the Berlin Conference commitments and Council resolutions must stop if there is to be any chance of putting Libya back on the path towards peace and stability. “The road map before us is clear,” he said, emphasizing that all tracks — including de-escalation on the ground, a permanent ceasefire under United Nations supervision, a relaunch of the political process and restoring Libya’s oil production — must remain Libyan-led and Libyan-owned, under UNSMIL auspices and with full international support. “We remain fully opposed to any attempt to turn Libya into yet another theatre of external military adventurism, or demarcate its territory into zones of foreign influence,” he said.
Luigi Di Maio, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Internal Cooperation of Italy, said that when he was in Tripoli, he conveyed a message of self-restraint and moderation to President Serraj. The same message must be conveyed to General Haftar. All foreign interference in Libya in violation of the arms embargo must stop and all States must cooperate to halt arms transfers via air, land or sea. A real ceasefire must be established in the framework of the Berlin process, he said, adding that defining a demilitarized zone would help defuse tensions and reduce the military presence. Dialogue leading to an inclusive and Libyan-owned political solution must resume immediately. Oil production must resume promptly, he said, adding that Italy is ready to support a Libyan solution for a more equitable and transparent distribution of financial resources. Six months after the Berlin Conference, its participants have a collective responsibility to stick to their commitments, he said, adding that a new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya must be appointed urgently.
Sameh Shoukry, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said aspirations for regional hegemony are complicating international efforts to lay the foundations for a peaceful and prosperous Libya. Egypt has supported every effort and initiative to resolve the situation in Libya, but unfortunately, large swaths of Libya have become footholds for extremism and safe havens for terrorist groups. “These forces of evil have often sought to extend their dark shadow over Egypt by infiltrating our western borders, and have, occasionally, exacted the heavy price of the lives of dozens of men, women, and children often peacefully worshipping in mosques and churches.” Due to the efforts of the Libyan National Army to secure eastern areas of the country, such deadly infiltrations have dramatically decreased. However, Da’esh fighters are resurfacing in western Libya, he said, emphasizing that Member States are duty bound to combat terrorism in the country. Further aggravating the situation is the transfer by a regional player of extremist fighters from Syria to Libya, as reported daily by the Syrian Observatory on Human Rights. “This is a very serious threat to the security of Libyans as well as to the neighbouring States and to both shores of the Mediterranean.” Such threats constitute a clear and present danger to Egypt, he said, emphasizing that his country will not tolerate such threats as they approach its borders. Support for extremism must cease, together with a halt to assistance from regional players who are obviously not keen on preserving stability in the Mediterranean region. He explained that Egypt’s position is premised on the support of a political solution of a unified Libya as expressed in the Cairo Declaration, which fully conforms with the outcome of the Berlin Conference, relevant Council resolutions and decisions by the League of Arab States and the African Union. Stability in Libya depends on reconstituting the Presidency Council, forming an independent Government agreed upon by all Libyan parties and approved by the House of Representatives, as well as disarming militias, combating terrorism, unifying the army and guaranteeing an equitable distribution of wealth. He went on to say that an immediate nationwide ceasefire in Libya would be an important step towards reviving political talks in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations and within the context of the Berlin parameters. “It is imperative for the international community to exert every effort to help the Libyan people achieve stability in their country and find a path to peace,” he said.
Sabri Boukadoum, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said that the time has come to root out the causes of the unending and unacceptable situation in Libya. Algeria is in no position to let Tripoli drift towards an uncharted future, he said, emphasizing that the security of Libya’s neighbours depends on the peace, security and territorial integrity of Libya. There can only be a political solution, and that can only come about if external forces stop interfering. Designating a new Special Representative would be a good signal for restarting dialogue, he said, emphasizing also the efforts of the African Union and the proposed inter-Libyan conference that would bring together all Libyans, tribes and regions to decide the way forward. “The Libyans, and only the Libyans, will define the contour, with no more interference, no more weapons overflow and no more mercenaries,” he said, agreeing with the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs that “cynical absurdities” must give way to a message of hope for Libya’s people.
Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, reiterated his country’s call for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire agreement and the resumption of a Libyan-led political dialogue under United Nations auspices. Six months after the Berlin Conference, however, the situation in Libya has deteriorated due to ongoing foreign regional interference in Tripoli’s internal affairs. “There are now roughly 10,000 Syrian mercenaries operating in Libya, approximately twice as many as there were six months ago,” he said, adding that the growing presence of mercenaries and foreign fighters exacerbates the conflict and undermines efforts for a peaceful political solution. He called for all Member States to support the Berlin conclusions and UNSMIL’s efforts to deescalate the situation and rebuild trust. Operation IRINI can also play an important role to ensure that all the Berlin signatories uphold their commitments. He called on the Council to remain engaged and keep advancing a political solution, adding that the appointment of a new Special Representative should be a priority in that regard.
Sedat Önal, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, said that attempts to resurrect a totalitarian regime in Libya will only further destabilize the country and the region. A viable and genuine political process can only be advanced, once a sustainable ceasefire is achieved. Despite the explicit provisions of Council resolution 2259 (2015), many actors have engaged with parallel entities in Libya, enabling Mr. Haftar to pursue his aggression against the legitimate Government. “Placing the aggressor on an equal footing with the legitimate UN-recognized Government is wrong and counterproductive. This grave mistake must be corrected.” Giving political and military support to that “warlord” in pursuit of subversive objectives against the legitimate Government are incompatible with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions, as well as harmful for peace and stability in Libya and beyond. Blaming Turkey while working at cross-purposes with the United Nations-led political process is unacceptable hypocrisy, he said, adding that the European Union’s Operation IRINI, launched without consulting Tripoli, practically sanctions the Government of National Accord, given that Mr. Haftar acquires weapons via land and air. He went on to say that the oil blockade should be lifted and control of oil facilities returned to the National Oil Company. The discovery of mass graves at Tarhuna is a wake-up call for all those who have supported Mr. Haftar’s aggression to varying degrees, he said, welcoming the decisions of the Human Rights Council and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate. The use of landmines and improvised explosive devices by retreating Haftar militia must also be investigated.
Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, noting that Tripoli had come under attack from illegal militias for more than a year, warned against supporting one party in Libya against another. The only way to solve the crisis is to support the Government of National Accord and commit to the implementation of the Skhirat Agreement, relevant Council resolutions and the outcomes of the Berlin Conference. Any agreed political solution for Libya must include a clear and effective international mechanism that holds to account those States that fail to abide by those agreements. Qatar calls for a solution that preserves Libya’s sovereignty and unity, realizes the aspirations of the Libyan people and leads to building the State that the Libyans seek and deserve, away from narrow interests, personal ambitions, malicious agendas and unlawful external interference. For their part, the international community and the United Nations must work to provide the support necessary to achieve this objective, he said.
Congo’s representative, noting that his country’s President chairs the African Union High Level Committee on Libya, said that outside interference has turned the conflict into a proxy international war and a sanctuary for terrorist groups and mercenaries. He conveyed the High Level Committee’s call for an immediate ceasefire, particularly in the context of COVID-19; compliance with the arms embargo; the resumption of political negotiations; and the establishment of a reconciliation forum in Addis Ababa under the auspices of the African Union that would consider a road map to general elections. To address those challenges, however, Council unity is key and foreign interference in Libya must end. The High Level Committee, therefore, calls on the Council to assume its responsibilities and play its part with the African Union Committee, building on the consensus achieved in Berlin, he said.
Switzerland’s representative spoke in his capacity as Co-Chair, with the Netherlands, of the international humanitarian law and human rights working group of the Berlin process, saying that now is the time to silence the guns in Libya and to call all parties to the negotiating table. Given the deterioration of the situation in Libya, UNSMIL requires a robust mandate to monitor and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in addition to ensuring a close follow-up of the Berlin process. In that regard, the Mission’s human rights component must be strengthened through the provision of necessary resources. Peace efforts must reach out to relevant Libyan stakeholders, including civil society, to ensure that the Berlin process is inclusive and anchored to the reality on the ground. He went on to say that establishing a demilitarized zone around Sirte and Jufra could potentially prevent renewed hostilities, but its operational modalities must be examined in detail.
The representative of the Netherlands said that disregard of the weapons embargo and increased foreign intervention have driven Libya to a point of regional escalation, putting all Libyans at risk and endangering the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. All Member States must recommit to the Berlin conclusions and move towards de-escalation, especially in the short term around Sirte and Juffra. He expressed support for the proposed demilitarized zone and welcomed the resumption of the 5+5 military talks. Prospects for talks under UNSMIL auspices are also encouraging. The horrors of the conflict, such as the mass graves around Tarhuna, must be addressed and the perpetrators held to account. He welcomed the Human Rights Council’s establishment of a fact-finding mission, as well as the work of the International Criminal Court, and called on all parties, both national and international, to support their work.
Nikolaos-Georgios Dendias, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece, said that strict implementation of the arms embargo, along with a cessation of hostilities, are key for paving the way to resolving the conflict. “Any solution should be free from external interference and from actions that exacerbate the conflict and are contrary to the interests of the Libyan people.” Any initiative aimed at resuming inter-Libyan dialogue, including the Cairo Declaration, should be encouraged. Noting his recent visit to Tobruk, in eastern Libya, where he met Aguila Saleh Issa, Speaker of the Libyan Parliament, he said that at this critical juncture, it is high time to exert every possible effort to promote peace and stability, and for those who use Libya as their proxy-war battlefield to respect Council resolutions and the conclusions of the Berlin Conference. For their part, Libyans must take ownership of the political process and reach an inclusive negotiated solution that can offer a viable long-term way out of the conflict.
Nasser Bourita, Minister for Foreign Affairs, African Cooperation and Moroccan Expatriates of Morocco, asked whether a proliferation of initiatives will help resolve the Libyan conflict. “Aren’t they mutually exclusive? Would they not have the opposite effect to that which is ardently sought, namely that of prolonging an uncontrollable situation?” Libya should not be seen as a lucrative diplomatic business, but an arena where some foreign Powers are engaging in a proxy war. International consensus on the need to make progress must be turned into practical and concrete action. The political agreement signed in Skhirat, Morocco, on 17 December 2015 may not be perfect, but there is no equivalent alternative on the table, he said. Its provisions need to be adjusted and updated, in light of developments on the ground, and it is up to the Libyan parties to do so, with international encouragement. He went on to say that for Morocco, Libya is not just a diplomatic issue. “Our stability and our security are depending on the situation in Libya.”
Sudan’s representative said that all of Libya’s neighbours should be engaged in international or regional arrangements to stop the fighting in that country. The situation in Libya can only be resolved through negotiation and dialogue between the parties concerned. Sudan is aware of reports about the involvement of Sudanese individuals and non-State actors in the Libyan conflict, but its Government categorically denies that Sudan troops are supporting the belligerent parties. On the contrary, Khartoum has repeatedly offered to form a joint Sudanese-Libyan force to secure the border, he said, recalling that last week, Sudanese Armed Forces detained 122 Sudanese nationals attempting to cross into Libya, presumably to fight there or to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
Libya’s representative declared that Operation Burkan Al Ghadab was a victory for those who favour a civil and democratic State, as well as a symbol of resilience against counterrevolutionaries and those who support them. However, Libyans are tired of double standards, the United Nations is strained and helpless, and the Council just an arena for arguments and empty statements. Cowardly acts carried out by Mr. Haftar’s militia and mercenaries recalled the atrocities of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Da’esh (ISIL) terrorists, yet some still consider that war criminal to be a partner for peace. Hopefully, investigations by the International Criminal Court and the Human Rights Council will bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. He called on concerned States to withdraw their citizens from his country, including those affiliated with the Wagner Group, and thanked Sudan for arresting more than 120 mercenaries attempting to cross the border into Libya.
Without a doubt, the United Arab Emirates was involved in supporting the failed coup attempt in Libya and threatening international peace and security in many parts of the world, he said. Tripoli does not accept Abu Dhabi’s engagement in political dialogue. The United Nations and the international community must limit any future Libyan talks to neighbouring States, Mediterranean countries and Council members. Failure to do so will prompt Libya to demand the addition of other important countries to ensure balance. Pointing to Egypt’s unilateral initiatives, such as the Cairo Declaration, and its threats to arm young Libyan tribespeople, he said that Libya will confront any act of aggression with firmness and strength. Military operations will continue until all Libya is free of rebels, militias and mercenaries. Turing to the control of oil fields and installations by Mr. Haftar’s militia and mercenaries, he said that the shutdown of oil ports is costing more than $6.5 billion. Some foreign actors are taking advantage of the situation to achieve their international objectives and to increase their share in global markets. Oil is the wealth of all Libyans and the Government of National Accord will use all possible means to liberate oil facilities and resume production. Talk about the equal distribution of wealth is just an argument for controlling State resources, and that will never happen.
He emphasized that Libya, like any country, has a sovereign right to sign military, security and other agreements with any other State. That does not constitute foreign intervention. If such agreements are illegal, then all agreements signed by Libya with other countries — whether security, economic or oil-related — are also illegal. Recalling that Council resolutions call on all States to support the Government of National Accord, he said that the arms embargo should not undermine the Government nor should it support the coup against it. The only solution to the proliferation of weapons is to end the division of the country, achieve stability, embrace youth and activate disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programmes. It also means improving the economic and social situation. He went on to say that a comprehensive political solution must not involve those who have attempted to seize power and militarize the State. Any political initiatives presented must be nationally owned and under United Nations auspices in coordination with the African Union. “We reject any unilateral initiatives that are not inclusive of all Libyan parties, custom-made for some individuals and presented by impartial States that support rebels.” He also requested that the Council hold an urgent meeting of its sanctions committee later in July that would include all States accused of violating the arms embargo. He concluded by calling on all Libyans to reunite and to work together against those seeking to divide the country. “The outcome of the aggressor’s adventure was nothing but more killings and destruction for the benefit of other States and individuals.”
Also participating were senior officials and representatives of Chad and the Russian Federation.
The African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security also spoke.
* Based on information received from the Security Council Affairs Division.