UN chief Guterres: Libya’s future is at stake

Libya’s future “is at stake” and world powers and those with interests in its long-running civil war should stop sending arms to the country’s rival governments and keep working towards a lasting ceasefire, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

Guterres implored those at a virtual ministerial meeting on Monday, co-hosted by the UN and Germany, to support peace efforts “not only in words but in actions”, including immediately backing a widely violated UN arms embargo against Libya.

“The violations of the embargo are a scandal and call into question the basic commitment to peace of all involved,” he said.

“Foreign deliveries of weapons and other military support must stop immediately.”

Germany, which has been trying to act as an intermediary, said the virtual meeting was a chance to review what has been achieved since Berlin hosted a summit on Libya in January at which participants from both sides agreed to respect an arms embargo and push Libya’s warring parties to reach a full ceasefire.

That agreement has been repeatedly violated.

A summary of the ministerial meeting by the co-chairs said participants reaffirmed their commitment to the conclusions of the Berlin conference, strongly welcomed the planned resumption of talks between the rival Libyan parties, and “stressed the need to immediately stop foreign intervention in Libya”.

“There was broad agreement that repeated violations of the United Nations arms embargo had to stop immediately,” the co-chairs said.

A report by the UN panel of experts monitoring sanctions against Libya, seen by The Associated Press news agency last month, said the arms embargo was being violated by the warring parties and their international backers, and that it remains “totally ineffective”.

Acting UN special envoy Stephanie Williams told a news conference after what she called “a very candid dialogue” among the major players that weapons, mercenaries and equipment “are still pouring into Libya … on both sides”.

She said this “risks miscalculations on the ground” and poses “a direct threat to Libya’s neighbours”.

“There are nine countries that are intervening in the Libyan conflict,” Williams said, without giving any names. “They all need to stop the breaches of the arms embargo.”

Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.

The country has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Renegade commander Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled army launched an offensive in April 2019, trying to capture Tripoli, the capital. But his campaign collapsed in June when the Tripoli-allied militias, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand.

Haftar is supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia. Turkey, a rival of Egypt and the UAE in a broader regional struggle, is the main patron of the Tripoli forces, which are also backed by Qatar.

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