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28 January 2021

Speakers Urge Security Council to Help Sustain Momentum towards Building Democratic, Unified Libya, as Special Representative Highlights Advances in Peace Talks

Amid calls for the Security Council to help sustain the significant momentum under way to build a democratic, unified Libya, the top United Nations official in that country urged the 15-member organ during a 28 January videoconference meeting to adopt a resolution calling for the dissolution of all remaining parallel executive entities set up by the opposing political forces.

“Libyans are keen to turn the page, to reclaim Libyan sovereignty and ownership of their destiny as a people after many years of relentless armed conflict, societal fragmentation and crippling institutional division,” said Stephanie Williams, acting Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).  “This rejuvenation of Libyan patriotism must be sustained, harnessed and supported by this Council to open a new path for Libya towards democracy, respect for human rights, accountability and justice under the rule of law.”

Highlighting positive developments following the Berlin international conference on Libya held one year ago, she said the intra-Libyan dialogues, facilitated by UNSMIL through the complementary political, military and economic tracks, have produced tangible progress:  a ceasefire is in place; the Tunis Road Map adopted in mid-November 2020 has charted the path for restoring democratic legitimacy by setting a clear date for national elections and for the establishment of a unified, temporary executive authority; and long-overdue economic-financial reforms are well under way.

Although the conference did not put an immediate end to the conflict nor end foreign support to the warring parties, the Berlin process “did what was envisioned,” she stressed, noting that it created an international umbrella for the United Nations to work directly with the Libyan parties, military officers, political forces and thought leaders to seek a “Libyan-Libyan” resolution.

In a digital dialogue last week, 76 per cent of the 1,000 Libyan participants from across the country and abroad supported the holding of national elections on 24 December, with the majority calling for an end to the years-long transitional period, Ms. Williams said.  Sixty-nine per cent of participants believed that a unified interim executive authority is needed in the run-up to elections.  However, more than 70 per cent feared obstruction from what they described as the “status quo” party and called for a stronger United Nations role in ending foreign interference and for the continuation of the United Nations‑facilitated dialogues.

The ceasefire agreement — signed on 23 October between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord and the Libyan Arab Armed Forces under General Khalifa Haftar — continues to be observed and the 5+5 Joint Military Commission consisting of officials from both sides remains active, she said.

Ahead of the 23 January deadline set by the ceasefire agreement for foreign fighters and mercenaries to depart Libya, the Commission affirmed that they will continue their work to implement all provisions of the agreement, also reiterating in a public statement the need for the immediate repatriation of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from the entire Libyan territories.  She stressed that responsibility for implementing the ceasefire agreement rests with the political and military leadership of both sides.

On 19 January, she said, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum — comprising 26 representatives from the country’s two assemblies and 49 United Nations-picked independents — voted to approve the proposed mechanism to select a new executive authority to govern Libya in the lead up to national elections.  The one-week nomination period for the submission of candidacies for the positions of a three‑member Presidency Council and of Prime Minister closes today, with the Dialogue Forum to convene outside Geneva for the voting process from 1 to 5 February.

Reminding all prospective candidates that high office comes with high responsibilities, she also appealed to all parties, States with vested interests in Libya, and those Libyans seeking executive office to be aware that Libya’s future is in their hands.

In the ensuing discussion, Security Council members welcomed the appointments of Ján Kubiš as Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, of Raisedon Zenenga as Mission Coordinator and of Georgette Gagnon as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, also thanking Ms. Williams' efforts over the past year in the wake of Ghassan Salamé’s resignation.

Delegates also echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal to all regional and international actors to respect the provisions of the ceasefire agreement, including the complete departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, while calling on all actors to respect the arms embargo.

The representative of the United Kingdom urged the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and all Libyans to seize the opportunity to appoint a unified and inclusive Government.  Ensuring that the High National Electoral Commission gets the correct support for elections on 24 December should be a priority for the interim executive authority.  He emphasized that there is no place for foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya, including those working for the Russian Wagner Group or coming from Syria.  All actors, both Libyan and international, must speed up the implementation of the ceasefire, giving priority to reopening the coastal road between Abu Grein and Sirte, in addition to the immediate repatriation of all foreign fighters and mercenaries.  He supported the Secretary-General’s proposal to deploy an advance ceasefire monitoring team and expressed deep concern about the economic situation in Libya.

The representative of India stressed the importance of a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned peace process that safeguards the country’s independence, unity and territorial integrity.  A lasting ceasefire — and lasting peace — require strict compliance with the sanctions regime and the exit from Libya of foreign fighters.  Blatant violations of the arms embargo must be condemned, he said, adding that the Council should look at options to address the management of frozen assets.  He added that the ongoing selection mechanism to set up a temporary Executive Authority must ensure genuine and true representation of the Libyan people, thus ensuring the correct decisions for credible elections.

The speaker for Ireland emphasized that it’s rare for the Council to be able to remark on significant progress in complex situations.  “Today is one of those rare occasions,” she said, noting Libya’s progress has brought it closer to peace, stability and development.  Welcoming the parties’ continued resolve to implement the ceasefire agreement and agree on the operation of the ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism, she said Dublin strongly supports the Secretary-General’s request to the Council to give UNSMIL a clear but flexible mandate to support the mechanism.  Noting that foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya, she said:  “This is simply not acceptable”.  The continued threat of terrorism and violent extremism is also deeply concerning and serious violations of the arms embargo must end.  Welcoming the Dialogue Forum’s 19 January decision to adopt a selection mechanism for a temporary executive authority to prepare for elections in December, she said agreement on the three-member Presidency Council and the Prime Minister must be reached quickly.  Recent economic reforms — such as the re‑activation of the Central Bank of Libya’s Board of Directors and unification of the exchange rate — should help improve Libya’s financial and economic prospects.  Investing in national reconciliation is key for sustainable peace, she stressed, adding:  “This Council has a responsibility to prevent spoilers, be they foreign or domestic, from reversing Libya’s hard-won peacebuilding gains.”

The representative of the United States said that Libya faces a critical turning point.  Parties must seize the opportunity to select an interim national executive authority that answers the Libyan people’s call for transparent governance.  Going forward, the Council and the international community must remain engaged as Libya goes down the path towards the 24 December elections.  Commending the Acting Special Representative for her commitment and creativity, he called on all parties to work “with urgency and good faith” to create a new unified Government with a mandate to prepare for the elections, provide public services and manage Libya’s wealth for the benefit of its people.  Spoilers must not stand in the way of this political transition, he said, calling upon the Russian Federation, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to respect Libya’s sovereignty, cease military activity in the country and withdraw their fighters, mercenaries and proxies.  All parties to the conflict should fully support the monitoring and verification of the ceasefire.  They should also implement confidence-building measuring, including re-opening the coastal road.  Noting the ongoing discovery of mass graves in areas once held by the Libyan National Army, he said that the international fact-finding mission must have safe access to the entire country and the ability to interview witnesses privately.  He went on to called upon Council members to adhere to their Berlin Conference commitments and to support the political process, ceasefire, accountability for human rights violations, and arms embargo.

The representative of Estonia said that the Council, more than ever, must focus on implementation of the ceasefire agreement.  Significant progress still needs to be made on ending foreign interference in Libya.  He urged all parties to immediately end blatant violations of the sanctions regime and withdraw all foreign fighters and mercenaries.  He added that Estonia supports the establishment of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism under United Nations auspices and stressed the importance of confidence-building measures, such as the recent prisoner exchanges.

The speaker for Niger said that, while the situation in Libya remains volatile, there are signs of hope.  Going forward, help and solidarity from the United Nations and others will be crucial, he said, emphasizing that international support must go beyond logistics to include other measures to ensure the credibility of the 24 December elections.  He expressed concern about the presence of mercenaries and other foreign fighters in Libya, noting that some might be tempted to advance to the Sahel region.  The arms embargo must be respected in full.  Noting the growing number of COVID-19 cases, he voiced concern at the fate of migrants in overcrowded camps and demanded the release of refugees and asylum seekers from arbitrary detention.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s proposal that the policy of sending migrants intercepted at sea to Libya be reviewed.  Everything should be done to document serious human rights violations, including disappearances, with the perpetrators and their accomplices brought to justice.

The representative of China, asserting that “hope is on the horizon in Libya,” said the ceasefire should be observed by all, with the withdrawal of all foreign fighters being the next crucial step.  China is carefully studying the Secretary-General’s proposal for ceasefire monitors, he said, emphasizing that such a mechanism must be objective and that the opinions of the parties concerned must be fully respected.  He called for the political process to be accelerated and hoped that all parties will make sustainable development a priority.  He went on to call on the international community to increase coordination and cooperation to combat terrorism, adding that the arms embargo must be strictly enforced.

The representative of Norway said the Libyans have made it clear that they want change and peace, urging Council members to give them the requisite support and welcoming the work in the Joint Military Commission and its concrete progress in implementing the ceasefire agreement.  Oslo supports a role for UNSMIL in monitoring the ceasefire in Libya, she said, emphasizing that such a mechanism should be Libyan-led and Libyan-owned.  She however expressed concern about widespread foreign interference in Libya and continuing breaches of the arms embargo.  She expressed disappointment about some States’ lack of respect for the ceasefire agreement, particularly their unwillingness to ensure the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya.  The Acting Special Representative’s focus on consulting civil society representatives throughout the process has resulted in the inclusion of key human rights principles in the political road map, she observed, welcoming inclusion of 17 women in the Dialogue Forum.

The speaker for Viet Nam said concrete efforts are much needed to preserve the current momentum, calling on the Libyan parties to make further progress on the formation of the Government of National Unity and begin the transitional period leading to national elections.  It is important for the Libyan parties to put the country’s and people’s interests first and demonstrate a spirit of mutual understanding and trust to overcome differences.  He also urged the relevant parties to fully respect and implement the ceasefire agreement, as well as the arms embargo in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.  All relevant parties must also continue to fully respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered humanitarian access to effectively combat the COVID-19 pandemic.  Steps are also needed to better protect vulnerable groups, particularly women, children, migrants and refugees.

The representative of France urged the Council to support the United Nations-facilitated intra-Libyan political process to ensure the proper conduct of the 24 December elections.  The Dialogue Forum’s adoption of the mechanism for selecting a new interim executive authority is a major step towards Libya’s unity and stability.  While the ceasefire is being observed, it is not acceptable that the coastal road has not reopened.  Turning to foreign fighters, he said it is not enough to deplore them in words.  The Council must authorize the deployment of a monitoring mechanism under the aegis of the United Nations and adopt a new resolution giving full mandate to UNSMIL to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.  It is time for the Council to act and enforce the resolutions it has adopted, whether they be about compliance with the arms embargo, the departure of foreign fighters from Libyan soil or dismantling militias.  On migrant trafficking, he said France and Germany had proposed imposing sanctions against Osama Ibrahim al Kuni of the city of Zawiya for his numerous human rights violations.

The representative of the Russian Federation, underscoring that Moscow has consistently advocated a peaceful settlement of the Libyan crisis through political and diplomatic means, criticized the interference by Western States for the prolonged conflict.  Libyans themselves should lead the settlement process, including the political, military, economic and other tracks.  While welcoming that armed confrontation had turned into dialogue, he pointed out that the situation remains fragile.  Any steps taken by the Dialogue Forum must be inclusive, which is necessary for the peace process to be sustainable and effective.  The main task of the new Special Envoy is not to achieve planned benchmarks, but to create an atmosphere of trust among the broadest spectrum of Libyan political forces.  It is also necessary to restore order in the financial and economic sphere, he said, expressing concern about reports of European companies benefiting from “frozen accounts” at the expense of Libyan assets.

The representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines said that recent developments in Libya provide reasons for cautious optimism.  The parties to the ceasefire agreement must fully comply with its provisions and Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, including through compliance with the arms embargo.  Libyans must continue along the path of inclusivity, mindful of the transformative roles of women and youth.  Underscoring the vulnerability of the 1.3 million Libyans who depend on humanitarian assistance, she called on the international community to urgently support the Libyan Humanitarian Response Plan.  She emphasized the need to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees and reaffirmed support for the constructive role being played by the African Union alongside the European Union, League of Arab States and neighbouring States.

The representative of Mexico said that the ceasefire opens space for working towards a negotiated end to the Libyan conflict.  The Council should fully support the intra-Libyan process.  He voiced concern about non-compliance with some elements of the ceasefire agreement and invited all parties to the conflict and their international partners to agree on a mechanism to allow the withdrawal of foreign combatants.  Actions which strengthen the military capacity of the parties will undermine prospects for a successful political process.  He went on to call for the Council-imposed arms embargo to be respected, urged the authorities to release migrants and refugees from arbitrary detention, and demanded accountability for sexual and gender-based violence.

The representative of Kenya underscored the threat posed by global terrorist actors and their facilitators, not only to Libya, but also to neighbouring States and the wider region.  Stronger action must be taken against the remnants of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), he said, adding that measures against terrorist financing, radicalization and recruitment should be built into post-reconciliation governance systems.  He also called for a blueprint for disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation, emphasizing that the absence of such a plan risks exporting instability to other parts of the region.  He went on underscore the need for strong cooperation and coordination with the African Union, stating that “the voice and reasoning of Africa should be an important point of reference for action”.

The representative of Tunisia, Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity, underscoring the importance of all efforts to hold timely elections and ensure national reconciliation.  Tunisia notes the common will of the various Libyan parties to move forward to fulfil the desires of the Libyan people, end the crisis, and restore stability and security.  He conveyed his country’s satisfaction with the Libyans’ commitment to adhere to the ceasefire and to implement its provisions, including the exit of foreign combatants.  Hopefully, consultations on an effective monitoring mechanism, led and controlled by Libyans, will be expedited.  He went on to call for full compliance with the arms embargo, non-interference in Libya’s internal affairs, and respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, including accountability for acts of impunity.

The speaker for Libya said that the appointment of the seventh Special Envoy in 10 years testifies that the main problem is not about the envoys, but international interference, which plunged his country into a proxy war and an arena to advance their ambitions.  Reiterating calls for the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries, he said he looks forward to a new phase of the peace process.  The main issue is not about power‑sharing, but about “healing the wounds of Libyans”, he emphasized, adding that Africa can play a vital role in national reconciliation.  He asked that the Council to adopt a resolution supporting the 24 December national elections, calling on the new Special Envoy to work towards that aim.  Turning to the mass grave discovered in June 2020 in and around the city of Tarhouna, he said justice is needed for human rights violations and the national judiciary will not wait to hold the perpetrators accountable, urging the Council to act, as well.  Regarding the asset freeze, his delegation will put forward a request to amend the relevant provisions of sanctions as Libya’s financial assets are being pillaged.

For information media. Not an official record.