Top UN man says Libya is a “scandal”


UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called the situation in Libya a “scandal” as his envoy cited a “genuine will” by rival military factions planning a first meeting to secure a lasting ceasefire.

“I am frustrated with what’s happening in Libya,” Guterres said in a press conference in which he was critical of countries that 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,” Guterres said at the United Nations headquarters in New York. “The truth is the Security Council arms embargo remains violated.”

He called the mediation efforts of UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame “the only good news” there.

Salame told reporters earlier there was a “genuine will to start negotiating” adding the arms embargo was violated by both sides and new mercenaries and arms were arriving “by air and by sea” . Forces loyal to eastern based commander Khalifa Haftar have been trying to take Tripoli for the past 10 months.

The talks bring together five senior military officers from Haftar’s Libyan National Army and five from forces aligned with the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.

Fighting continued despite a call for a truce by Russia and Turkey and the international summit on Libya in Berlin aimed at reducing international interference.

Haftar has material support from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and Russia, UN experts and diplomats say, while the GNA is backed militarily by Turkey.

Salame deplored the presence of more than “20 million pieces of weaponry” asked the UN Security Council to pass a resolution to reaffirm an existing arms embargo and pass measures to ensure it is respected.

Talks between the two sides, who did not meet face-to-face in Geneva on Monday, aimed “to bridge gaps in their views on how a lasting, sustainable ceasefire can be organised on the ground,” Salame said.

“We started to discuss a long list of points on our agenda, starting with an attempt to transform the truce into a more solid one, less often violated and to transform that truce into a real agreement on a lasting ceasefire,” he said.

Haftar’s offensive, which upended a previous UN peace plan, deepened the gulf between loose alliances competing for power from western and eastern Libya since 2014.

The GNA was set up in 2016 from a previous UN peace push Haftar and his backers spurned.

The conflict that developed in Libya since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 has given space to militants and migrant smugglers and crippled Libya’s oil reliant economy.

A blockade of oil ports and fields by groups loyal to Haftar before the Berlin conference reduced oil output by a million barrels per day (bpd).

Asked if he would press Haftar to end the blockade, Salame said it was an issue being pursued on the ground, urging foreign powers to back a broader UN bid to resume production.