Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 July 2019

UN urges Libya ceasefire after week long offensive on Tripoli

Secretary General Antonio Guterres spoke after Security Council met in urgent session

Thousands of residents fled on Wednesday as the LNA and troops loyal to the Tripoli government battled on the outskirts of Libya's capital. AFP
Thousands of residents fled on Wednesday as the LNA and troops loyal to the Tripoli government battled on the outskirts of Libya's capital. AFP

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday appealed for a ceasefire in Libya to halt the near week-long offensive of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar's forces on the capital Tripoli.

Mr Guterres spoke in New York after a closed doors session of the UN Security Council which had been called by Britain and Germany because of concern about a renewed and open-ended phase of conflict.

“It is time to stop,” said Mr Guterres, who was in Libya last week when General Haftar, leader of the Libyan National Army, started his advance.

“It is time for a ceasefire to take place – for a cessation of hostilities... to avoid the worst, which would be a dramatic bloody battle for Tripoli,” the UN secretary general told reporters after the meeting, pledging to do everything he could to support a peaceful way out of the impasse.

“It is still time to recognise there is no military solution,” he added.

General Haftar's sudden advance on Tripoli upended a painstaking effort by the UN to end Libya's political problems.

The UN backs a government of national accord in the capital. On Tuesday the UN reluctantly was forced to delay a Libyan national conference planned for April 14-16 which had aimed to draw up an election roadmap, because of the fighting on Tripoli's outskirts.

Separately on Wednesday, EU states said they planned to call on General Haftar to halt his forces' offensive in Tripoli, a draft statement said.

"Hostilities must cease immediately, the LNA must withdraw and the humanitarian truces called by the UN must be heeded," it said.

"The EU calls on its international and regional partners to exert their influence and send an unequivocal message to the aggressors that there is no military solution to the crisis, only a political one."

The LNA forces moved out of their stronghold in eastern Libya to take the sparsely populated but oil-rich south this year, before moving towards Tripoli.

Libya has been divided and anarchic since the 2011 toppling of strongman Muammar Qaddafi, who ruled for more than four decades before being toppled and killed in a western-backed revolt.

Last Thursday, only hours after the LNA offensive began, the UAE, the United States, France, Britain and Italy called for de-escalation in Libya.

When Mr Guterres left Libya on Friday he described how he had been “moved and shocked” after visiting a detention centre for refugees and migrants.

Libya became the main launching point for migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean as people smugglers took advantage of the chaos in the country. European states tried to stem the flow by helping the Tripoli government to strengthen its coast guard and to set up migrant holding centres.

Updated: April 11, 2019 05:18 AM