UN chief Guterres fears eruption of 'full civil war' in Libya

Libya conflict could spiral into all-out civil war unless 'political solution' reached soon, UN secretary-general warns.

    Fighting on the outskirts of Libya's capital Tripoli has killed about 1,000 people since April [File: Mahmud Turkia/AFP]
    Fighting on the outskirts of Libya's capital Tripoli has killed about 1,000 people since April [File: Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

    The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has said he fears Libya will end up in a "full civil war" unless moves are soon made to end the conflict.

    "Unless action is taken in the near term, it is highly likely that the current conflict will escalate into full civil war," Guterres said on Thursday in his latest report on the UN Support Mission in Libya.

    He acknowledged the need for the support of the international community in finding a political solution for the country, where forces loyal to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive to take the capital Tripoli from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in early April.

    "I urge all parties to stop using explosive weapons, including by aerial bombardment or shelling, in populated areas because of their likely indiscriminate effects," the secretary-general said.

    Fighting on the outskirts of Tripoli has killed about 1,000 people and displaced more than 100,000 since the start of Haftar's offensive.

    "A political solution to the Libyan conflict requires the full and united support of the international community," Guterres said.

    "I am concerned by the presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries being employed by parties to the conflict in Libya, as well as by the influx of weapons to the country," he added, calling for strict adherence to an arms embargo in place since 2011.

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    'External interference'

    UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame also denounced "external interference" in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde.

    "When I bring this situation up to the Security Council, I do not find that there is the necessary unity to sanction such behaviours, which contradict both the sovereignty of the country and related UN resolutions," Salame said.

    According to Salame, these "interferences ... encourage opposing parties within Libya to keep fighting".

    GNA chief Fayed al-Sarraj is supported by Turkey and Qatar, while Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and has received political support from the United States, Russia and France.

    Migration crisis

    In his report, Guterres also expressed concern for refugees and migrants in oil-rich Libya, which has been mired in chaos since the NATO-backed toppling of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and split into rival eastern and western administrations since 2014.

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    "Refugees and migrants in Libya should be released and provided with safe shelter until their asylum claims can be processed or they can be provided with safe repatriation assistance for reunification with their families," he said.

    Libya is one of the main departure points for people fleeing poverty and war in the Middle East and Africa who attempt to reach Europe by boat via the Mediterranean Sea.

    Nearly 5,000 migrants and refugees are currently held in detention centres across the country, according to the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR).

    Outside of the detention centres, about 50,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers, as well as some 800,000 migrants, are currently living elsewhere in the countryUNHCR estimates.

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    SOURCE: News agencies