Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 18 September 2019

Arab states to call on UN to lift Libya arms ban

Resolution seeks approval to sell weapons to internationally recognised government, as Egypt calls for tough action against ISIL.
Egyptians participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims killed in Libya by ISIL militants, in front of the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Marcos in Cairo on February 17. EPA
Egyptians participate in a candlelight vigil for the victims killed in Libya by ISIL militants, in front of the Coptic Cathedral of Saint Marcos in Cairo on February 17. EPA

CAIRO // Arab states were expected to ask the UN Security Council on Wednesday to lift an arms embargo on weapons sales to Libya’s internationally recognised government for its fight against ISIL.

The draft resolution came as Egypt pushed for tough action against the extremists after the mass decapitation of Egyptian Christians in Libya.

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El Sissi warned that Egypt would strike back at any militant threats to its security as he toured the border area with Libya on Wednesday, two days after Cairo bombed ISIL targets there.

The growing pressure for action in Libya coincides with a conference on extremism convened by the Obama administration in Washington this week to address the threat of violent extremism.

After the ISIL video was released on Sunday, Cairo called for the Security Council to provide a mandate for an international military intervention.

But with little backing from western countries, the draft resolution on Libya made no mention of foreign military action against the extremists.

Instead, the text requests that “the arms embargo be lifted for the legitimate government (of Libya) to enable it to fight against terrorism”.

That draft also called for “increased surveillance from the sea and air to prevent deliveries of weapons to armed militants,” Egypt’s foreign ministry said.

The UN imposed an arms embargo on Libya at the start of the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi to protect civilians from his forces.

The country now has two rival governments and parliaments, one recognised by the international community and the other with ties to extremist groups.

The decision to submit the draft resolution came after a meeting between Arab UN envoys and Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry, who warned of the risks of inaction.

In their talks, Mr Shoukry stressed “the need for the international community... to assume its responsibilities towards the deteriorating situation in Libya, as it represents a clear threat to international peace and security,” his ministry said.

A US-led coalition is already carrying out air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq, and Egyptian officials have suggested they should be expanded to Libya.

But Western powers are wary of committing to action in Libya, still awash with weapons and rival militias battling for control of its cities and oil wealth.

Libya’s western neighbour Tunisia said it too opposed military intervention, instead calling for a political solution.

That echoed a statement Tuesday by the US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain that a continuing UN-backed attempt to get Libya’s warring sides to negotiate forming a government of national unity was the “best hope” for peace.

Libya has descended into chaos since the 2011 revolt, with the internationally recognised government forced to flee to the country’s east and militias in control of Tripoli and other main cities.

Some militias have pledged allegiance to ISIL and one of them released this week the video of the mass beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians.

The country’s main militias, including the Libya Dawn coalition that has declared a rival government in Tripoli and has been involved in the peace talks, have not linked up with ISIL.

But Italy, the closest European country to Libya by distance, warned of the threat of such an alliance.

“There is an evident risk of an alliance being forged between local groups and Daesh, and it is a situation that has to be monitored with maximum attention,” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said, using an alternative name for ISIL.

“We have to be clear, the situation has deteriorated. The time at our disposal is not infinite and is in danger of running out soon,” he said while stressing that Italy believed in a political solution.

The chaos in Libya has also contributed to a dramatic increase in the number of migrants attempting to travel across the Mediterranean from the country to Europe.

A conference in Washington on the threat of violent extremism began on Wednesday. During the three-day conference, Mr Obama will work to highlight local models for preventing radicalisation that could be replicated in other communities.

“Groups like Al Qaeda and ISIL exploit the anger that festers when people feel that injustice and corruption leave them with no chance of improving their lives,” Mr Obama wrote in the Los Angeles Times, ahead of the conference. “The world has to offer today’s youth something better.”

Meanwhile, military chiefs from 26 nations involved in the US-led coalition battling ISIL in Iraq and Syria met in Riyadh.

The two-day meeting is a chance for military leaders to exchange views about the fight against the extremist group.

The head of the US military’s Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, is taking part in the meeting and earlier met with Saudi Arabia’s interior minister and deputy crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.

Washington is planning a new programme to vet and train Syrian rebels, though critics say it will not be enough to significantly boost the more moderate forces on the ground. The Pentagon said last month that as many as 1,000 US troops and trainers would be sent to sites in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the programme, which is slated to start in the spring.

* Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Reuters

Updated: February 18, 2015 04:00 AM

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