The UN chief urged the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya by Saturday as called for in the October 23 ceasefire agreement signed by the warring sides after years of fighting split the oil-rich North African nation in two.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged the UN-recognised government that holds sway in the capital, Tripoli, in western Libya and the forces of renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar who runs most of the east and the south, “to maintain their resolve in reaching a lasting political solution to the conflict, resolving economic issues, and alleviating the humanitarian situation”.
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In a report to the UN Security Council obtained on Tuesday, Guterres welcomed the road map adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum – 75 representatives from the country’s political and social spectrum – leading to presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24, 2021.
After a NATO-led uprising in 2011 that overthrew and later killed hardline leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was divided between the rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers.
Turkey is the main patron of the Tripoli government, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back Haftar.
Guterres encouraged countries backing both sides and the broader international community to support implementation of the ceasefire “without delay”, including “ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo” against Libya.
He also urged the Security Council to give the UN political mission, known as UNSMIL, “a clear but flexible mandate” to support a Libyan-led mechanism to monitor implementation of the ceasefire. Diplomats said a Council resolution outlining the UN role will likely be circulated in late January or early February.
In early January, Guterres recommended that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a UN umbrella to observe the October ceasefire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s main oil fields and export terminals.
He said an advance team should be sent to Tripoli as a first step to “provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations ceasefire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte”.
‘Mitigating the risk’
The secretary-general expressed concern at the continuing threat of “terrorism and violent extremism” in the Libyan region, saying reunifying the country’s security institutions would contribute “to mitigating the risk” of ISIL (ISIS) and other armed groups reconstituting.
“Though operationally weakened as a result of a series of counterterrorism operations, the Islamic State … and a support network of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) remain a threat in Libya,” he said.
Guterres said the role of UN member nations and regional organisations, including the African Union, European Union and Arab League “is critical”.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit told the Security Council on Monday that recent events “could bring us closer to ending the division in this important Arab country”.
He pressed for foreign fighters and mercenaries to be removed by Saturday’s deadline, and urged a solution to the threat posed by armed groups and militias.
Aboul-Gheit warned unless this happens “the country will not enjoy any stability nor will any agreement on the transitional phase and the preparation for the upcoming elections survive”.
He pledged Arab League support to the UN in monitoring the ceasefire and in preparing for and observing December’s elections.