Libya’s foreign minister has asked the United Nations to end an embargo on weapon sales to the country’s internationally recognised government and help support its army as it confronts the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Mohammed al-Dairi told the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday that the UN “shouldered a legal responsibility” to help in the rebuilding of Libya’s army.
“Libya needs a decisive stance from the international community to help us build our national army’s capacity and this would come through a lifting of the embargo on weapons so our army can receive materiel and weapons so as to deal with this rampant terrorism,” Dairi told the council.
“If we fail to have arms provided to us, this can only play into the hands of extremists,” he said.
The UN imposed an arms embargo on Libya in 2011 to protect civilians from long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi and his armed forces.
The Libyan government is already allowed to import weapons and related materiel with the approval of a Security Council committee overseeing the embargo.
Dairi’s appeal came after fighters pledging allegiance to ISIL released a video on Sunday purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians.
Egypt launched air strikes in Libya on Monday the following day.
Dairi said Libya was seeking “support to combat terrorism” and “not calling for international intervention”.
“The situation in my country is threatening neighbouring countries in Africa and Europe,” he added.
Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays, reporting from the UN, said the idea of sending weapons to Libya would be a non-starter for many countries.
“Many at the Security Council table are saying that first you have to deal with the problem of Libya having two rival governments,” he said. “And get talks going to create a national unity government.”
Libya is awash with weapons, with the country’s three main cities – Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata – largely controlled by militias opposed to the UN-backed government based in the city of Tobruk.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry backed the call for the embargo to be lifted, saying that the international community had a “responsibility to help Libya face its crisis”.
Shoukry called on the UN to lift the embargo on Libya’s government to procure weapons, to take concrete measures to stop non-government entities, such as militias, in acquiring arms and weapons; and allow other states to help Libya confront the threats it faces.
Egypt carried out air raids against what is claimed were ISIL camps, training sites and weapons storage areas in Libya’s northeast on Monday.
At least seven civilians were reported killed in the strikes – something that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has since denied.
UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, said that ISIL can only be defeated with a united Libyan government in place that has strong international support.
The UN is mediating between the rival factions to get them to forge a unity government and end hostilities.