Libya: Rivals Agree on Need to Abide by Lasting Truce – UN
The Libyan rival sides meeting in Geneva at the level of the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission agree on the need to abide by a lasting and permanent ceasefire after months of conflict in the suburbs of Tripoli.
The armed conflict around Tripoli erupted last April when self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), led by commander Khalifa Haftar, launched an offensive to seize the capital, hosting the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (or GNA).
“The talks in Geneva are meant to listen carefully to the position of the two sides on what are the conditions for them to accept this translation of the truce into a permanent and lasting ceasefire”, said Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
“There is an agreement to convert the truce into a lasting ceasefire, so the principle has been adopted by both sides,” he said.
However, the chance of the situation deteriorating further persists, Salamé warned, despite a call for a truce launched early January by Russian and Turkish Presidents Vladmir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Although this truce had been accepted by both sides, Mr. Salamé noted that at the same time, an international arms embargo has been broken “incessantly” since 2011, with evidence of increasing foreign interference.
“We have new evidence of new equipment but also new fighters – non-Libyan fighters – joining the two camps”, he said. “Therefore, we believe that the arms embargo is being violated by both parties.”
Salamé expressed hope that those who are exporting arms to Libya understand that “there is already more than 20 million pieces of ordnance in the country, and that this is enough, and the country doesn’t need new equipment.”
The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also confirmed that the arms embargo is violated, calling the situation in Libya a “scandal”.
Speaking to reporters in New York Tuesday, he was critical of the countries that last month met in Berlin to push for progress in Libya peace talks.
“They committed not to interfere in the Libyan process and they committed not to send weapons or participate in any way in the fighting.” “The truth is that the Security Council (arms) embargo remains violated,” he said.
The GNA is supported by Turkey, Qatar and Italy while the LNA is backed by Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Faced with the challenge of achieving a positive outcome to the Geneva talks – which form part of a parallel UN initiative covering the political and economic aspects of the Libyan crisis – Salamé remained realistic about the chances for success, ahead of further talks. One should not expect the Geneva meeting, the very first between high-ranking officers of the two sides, to settle all issues, he said, insisting, however, that the need to de-escalate the situation was critical.