The United Nations Security Council has given the green light for the deployment of 60 UN ceasefire monitors to Libya and called on the country’s new unity government to prepare for free, fair and inclusive elections on December 24.
A ceasefire in Libya has held since October, but the main road across the front lines from Sirte to Misrata remains closed. On Friday the Security Council unanimously approved Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ proposal for the deployment of the monitors.
“The monitors would be deployed to Sirte once all the requirements for a permanent United Nations presence have been met, including security, logistical, medical and operational aspects,” Guterres wrote to the council on April 7.
“In the meantime, forward presence would be established in Tripoli, as soon as conditions permit,” he said.
Libya’s unity government was sworn in on March 15 from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.
In the resolution adopted on Friday, the Security Council stressed the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women and the inclusion of youth” in the elections.
Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country was then divided in 2014 between the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west and renegade commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based forces.
Haftar is supported by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, while the GNA is backed by Turkey.
The two camps, each supported by foreign powers, fought for more than a year before Haftar was forced to retreat.
In October they agreed to a ceasefire, setting in motion a UN-led process that saw a new transitional government installed in February.
The resolution that was passed in New York on Friday calls for the creation of a ceasefire surveillance unit of up to 60 members within the UN mission in Libya, called UNSMIL.
This is separate from a ceasefire monitoring mechanism that the warring parties themselves are working to create.
The Security Council also strongly urged countries to respect and support the ceasefire, including through the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya “without delay” and demanded full compliance with its arms embargo on Libya.
Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, sent to Libya to support Haftar and accused of lacing civilian areas with deadly booby traps when pulling out of Tripoli last year, remain entrenched around Sirte and other parts of the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that if there are Russians in Libya, they are not representing or paid by his government.
The presence in Libya of Turkish troops and mercenaries from Russia, Syria, Chad and Sudan, remains “a big concern,” according to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
But for the UN observer mission, which is unarmed, the “focus will be on the ceasefire,” he said.