Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Eid truce in Libya shows ceasefire is possible, says UN envoy

Ghassan Salame seeks international talks

The UN envoy spoke to the press from Tripoli. Reuters
The UN envoy spoke to the press from Tripoli. Reuters

A short-lived truce in Libya shows that a full ceasefire is possible, the UN's special envoy Ghassan Salame said on Wednesday as he called for international talks about the country's future.

Addressing the UN Security Council for the first time since the Eid Al Adha holiday last month, Mr Salame said the truce had decreased violence.

But he said that for progress to be made, outside powers must persuade the Government of National Accord in Tripoli and its rival, Libyan National Army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, to stop fighting.

“As a result of the truce there was a substantial reduction in violence along the main lines in southern Tripoli and elsewhere,” Mr Salame said by video link from Tripoli.

He said there were breaches but the agreement had mostly held during Eid festivities.

“Despite the subsequent relapse of violence, the principle has been established that both parties can commit to a prolonged truce," Mr Salame said.

"And without a doubt, the wide and public support of the international community played an important role in the lull in the fighting.”

He pushed for the Eid truce on July 29, when he last briefed the 15 member countries of the Security Council. That day he also warned that foreign mercenaries were fuelling the conflict in Libya.

In fighting since the truce, both sides have been bolstered by weapons that entered the country despite a UN arms embargo, which diplomats admit is not being enforced.

Libya's latest bout of violence began exactly five months ago when Field Marshal Haftar launched a surprise offensive on Tripoli, days before the UN had scheduled a conference aimed at political reconciliation and sharing power.

Mr Salame said the UN was investigating 40 incidents of arms, munitions or other military supplies being sent to Libya by foreign countries who are not co-operating with the investigation.

“It is sadly true to say that the arms embargo has been ineffective since April 4, 2019, and that there have been no interdictions or searches conducted at sea, despite such activities being authorised,” he said.

After the Eid truce, the UN's aim is to intensify national and international backing for a meeting to end the Libyan conflict and resume a political process.

Mr Salame said he had travelled to Germany, Malta, the UAE, Turkey, Tunisia and, two days ago, Cairo to rally support.

He said he planned more discussions soon and welcomed the G7 group of leading nations' call for an international conference on Libya.

“It remains abundantly clear that without the commitment of key external actors in Libya, the conflict will continue,” Mr Salame said.

He said a protracted, low-intensity conflict or a shorter, more devastating escalation of fighting in which both sides' backers increase their military support were possible outcomes.

The humanitarian situation in Libya remains dire. Despite his call for the closure of three migrant detention facilities under a UN plan, Mr Salame said the situation had not changed.

African migrants are still being sent to the Tajoura Detention Centre, east of Tripoli, where dozens of civilians were killed in an air strike in July.

Kuwait's ambassador to the UN, Mansour Al Otaibi, also said the Eid truce had curtailed violence for a short time.

“Our hope is that we can build on it,” Mr Otaibi said.

But Libya's deputy permanent representative to the UN, Elmahdi Elmajerbi, said there should be a meeting of national representatives before any international gathering, “to send a clear message” that Libyans were in charge of the political process.

Updated: September 5, 2019 04:52 AM

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