United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) - Security Council Open VTC

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19-Nov-2020 01:54:17
Political talks among Libya’s military, political leaders helping chart nation's way forward, Acting Special Representative tells Security Council.

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After many years of oppression, division, chaos, misery and conflict, Libyans are coming together to chart the way forward to preserve the country’s unity and reassert its sovereignty, the head of the United Nations special political mission there told the Security Council during a videoconference meeting on 19 November, painting a cautious but optimistic future for the war-torn State.

“Ten years of war cannot be solved in one week of political talks, but we hear more now the language of peace rather than the language of war,” said Stephanie Williams, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), noting that 75 Libyans came together in Tunisia on 9 November in a good faith effort to start the process of healing their nation’s wounds.

This first in-person session of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum took place on the basis of the conclusions of the Berlin Conference in January. “They sat, they talked, they extended their hands, if not their hearts, to each other,” she said.

Over the past several months, she added, she has witnessed the potential for a paradigm shift in how Libyan military, political and leaders view their role in charting the country’s path forward, from a power-sharing arrangement in which the riches are divided up amongst the privileged few, to one of responsibility sharing to save the country from further destruction.

On 15 November, the Forum adopted a political road map to presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on 24 December 2021, she said, noting that the agreed document sets general principles and objectives guiding the transition period under reconstituted and unified institutions, as well as the main timeframes for the endorsement of a new executive authority by the House of Representatives, and milestones for the constitutional arrangements and elections. A Government of national unity will be led by a Prime Minister and two deputies whose main mandate will be to lead the transitional period towards election, reunify State institutions and provide security and basic services to the population until elections are held. The road map also echoes the demand of female participants that women should account for no less than 30 per cent of leadership positions in the reformed executive authority. She said that the Forum will reconvene next week virtually to continue talks on the modalities for selection of executive positions.

Turning to the signing on 23 October of a country-wide, permanent ceasefire agreement between the internationally recognized Libyan Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar, she explained that this historic accord provides for the withdrawal of all military units and armed groups from the frontlines and the departure of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from the entire Libyan territory within a period of 90 days.

The sharp decrease in civilian casualties compared to the second quarter of 2020 is another stark reminder that “when guns are silent, civilians are protected”, she said. However, the two sides have not yet begun to withdraw their forces and air cargo activity is still seen, she said, requesting the Council to enforce relevant resolutions pertaining to the arms embargo.

On the economic front, she said, oil production is now back to pre-blockade levels at 1.2 million barrels per day. Negotiation of a durable economic arrangement for the transparent distribution of oil revenues remains dependent on advances made in the political track. While the Libyan economic dialogue has developed policy options to improve wealth management, negotiating such an arrangement remains challenging given the polarization between the two executive polities, she said.

The humanitarian situation remains dire, she reported, noting that for the beginning of 2021, 1.3 million people in Libya are estimated to need aid, an increase of 40 per cent compared to 2020. The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Libya continues to increase month-on-month. As of 15 November, there are 74,324 confirmed cases and 1,025 deaths. The first two weeks of November saw a 22 per cent increase in COVID-19 cases, with Libya’s biggest cities — Tripoli, Misrata and Benghazi — witnessing the largest increases. Supplies of vaccines for common childhood diseases will run out by the end of 2020 unless immediate action is taken, meaning that many children have missed or may miss their scheduled vaccine doses.

In the ensuing discussion, Council members broadly welcomed the recent developments, including the ceasefire agreement and the convening of the Forum, with one delegate urging the warring parties to seize this “hard-to-come-by” window of opportunity. Several speakers called for complete withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries while others expressed regret over continuing violations of the arms embargoes, including supplies of weapons.

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