Libya - Security Council Open VTC

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19-May-2020 02:08:09
Despite calls for ceasefire amid COVID-19 pandemic, unabated fighting could push Libya to new depths of violence, Acting Special Representative warns Security Council.

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Continued fighting in Libya threatens to worsen an already volatile situation, despite calls to end violence amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary‑General cautioned during a 19 May videoconference meeting* of the Security Council.

“Just when we think that the bottom has been reached in Libya, we somehow manage to achieve new depths of violence, heartlessness and impunity,” said Stephanie Williams, who also serves as Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Providing highlights from the Secretary-General’s latest report on developments in the country (document S/2020/360), she said fighting has continued between the Government of National Accord forces and General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army, also known as the Libyan Arab Armed Forces. The chronic violence has led to a sharp rise in humanitarian needs among the civilian population, including 400,000 internally displaced Libyans, along with 654,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

“As we survey the carnage wrought by almost 15 months of unrelenting violence in Libya, I believe we have reached another turning point in the conflict,” she said. “From what we are witnessing in terms of the massive influx of weaponry, equipment and mercenaries to the two sides, the only conclusion that we can draw is that this war will intensify, broaden and deepen with devastating consequences for the Libyan people. As the foreign intervention increases, the Libyans themselves are getting lost in the mix, their voices crowded out. We must not let Libya slip away.”

Pointing to alarming reports of military build‑up, she gave many examples of targeted attacks on civilians and related infrastructure, more than 850 ceasefire violations and tides of civilian deaths and displacement. Noting cases of the weaponization of vital services, including water, she said an ongoing oil blockade, costing Libya $4 billion to date, and the coronavirus crisis have only made a bad situation worse.

“While people around the world are adjusting to the new normal of living with a global pandemic,” she said, “millions of Libyans — most notably the 2 million residents of Tripoli — are experiencing a most abnormal and terrifying existence, under almost constant bombardment, frequent water and electricity cuts are compounded by restricted movement as a result of preventive COVID-19 measures, rendering the whole situation unbearable for the majority to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in peace.”

She urged Member States to respond to calls for COVID-dedicated funding, as well as to ramp up support to the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan, which is seriously underfunded, with only 14 per cent of the total needed to address urgent concerns. The lack of funding is hampering the ability to combat the pandemic and ensure that existing vulnerabilities are not exacerbated.

Social media is another theatre of the Libyan conflict, she said, noting that UNSMIL has built on workshops it held in 2019 to stem incitement and the use of hateful rhetoric in the press. In April, UNSMIL organized a virtual forum with nearly 30 prominent Libyan traditional and social media figures from across the spectrum, resulting with participants agreeing to establish a hate speech observatory under the auspices of UNSMIL and produce a code of ethics.

Pointing out other pockets of positive strides made in May, she said the National Oil Corporation managed to restore the institutional integrity of the national fuel distribution company Brega. In addition, the Ministry of Justice delivered an encouraging ruling on the legality of an international audit. At the same time, the Prime Minister publicly welcomed all political initiatives that called for a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis, urging all parties to resume talks either within the framework of the Libyan Political Agreement or via an agreement to hold elections under an agreed constitutional framework.

“In the wake of recent military developments, it appears there may be a window for the rejuvenation of some political activity,” she said, welcoming the constructive stance taken by the Prime Minister and the President of the House of Representatives. She also welcomed any political initiatives that are inclusive and aimed at ending the fighting and finding a peaceful solution to the conflict within the framework of the conclusions of the 19 January International Conference in Berlin and Security Council resolution 2510 (2020), which endorsed that gathering, among other things.

“Our mission remains to help Libyans rebuild a State strong enough to peacefully contain political differences,” she said. Indeed, the United Nations will not relent in its effort to get Libya’s political and military leaders to assume their responsibilities and commit to a ceasefire and a political settlement.

“We must enable responsible Libyans to write their own future,” she stressed, calling on the Council to apply consistent and credible pressure on the regional and international actors that are fueling the conflict. “We can collectively write a different ending to this so far sad tale, but only if we demonstrate a collective will to do so.”

Juergen Schulz (Germany), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya, briefed the Council on activities from 30 January to 19 May, saying that its work was conducted via the silence procedure and virtual meetings with the aim of facilitating the implementation of the sanctions measures during the COVID-19 crisis. The Committee updated identifiers on its Sanctions List on 25 February, considered the Panel of Experts’ recommendation pertaining to the asset freeze and met via videoconference with the newly appointed Panel to get updates on its work.

The Committee considered and approved a response letter to the Libyan Investment Authority, a designated entity, he said, and also received seven written updates from the Panel of Experts, five of them focusing on aspects of the arms embargo implementation and two on events related to crude oil exports and the import of Jet A-1 aviation fuel. As for the travel ban, the Committee considered and approved a request to amend the travel dates of Safia Farkash al-Barassi, for travel approved during the previous reporting period.

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