UN pushing to halt embargo violations in Libya


The UN envoy for Libya hopes an international conference next month will produce a Security Council resolution committing foreign powers to stopping an escalating proxy war and an accelerated mechanism to enforce an arms embargo.

The conference, organised by Germany, is set to be the first major diplomatic push to end fighting that began when eastern-based forces led by Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli six months ago.

It will seek to rally key external players to halt increasingly flagrant violations of a UN arms embargo and pressure allies in Libya to commit to a ceasefire and a new political process.

“Expressions of hope and encouragement and verbal support are not what I’m looking for – I’m looking for a clear expression of the will to end the war in Libya,” UN envoy Ghassan Salame said.

“This needs to be expressed clearly in a UN Security Council resolution and in a follow-up mechanism to protect implementation of this resolution.”

No date has been set for the conference, which aims to bring together the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Turkey and Egypt.

The UAE and Egypt back Haftar, while France and Russia lent him support. Turkey and Italy – the only Western nations to reopen embassies in Tripoli after previous fighting – have close ties to the internationally recognised government in the capital.

Salame said a UN panel of experts monitoring the arms embargo was investigating dozens of violations and foreign interference “even more blatant” than before included possible or potential use of foreign mercenaries and operators of foreign supplied drones.

The panel of experts is due to publish a report by year-end, but its detailed documentation of alleged violations in recent years – including by the UAE and Egypt – has not led to censure.


Salame said the reporting system needed to be quicker and more “reactive”.

“We need them to express themselves immediately and not wait for an end-of-year report,” he said.

“We need the sanctions committee to be more active sanctioning those who violate the arms embargo and we need countries where those weapons are produced or bought to commit publicly to stop the transfer or arms to Libya.”

Libya has been divided into rival, shifting camps based in the east and west since 2014, three years after a NATO-backed uprising overthrew former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The offensive against Tripoli, which stalled on the capital’s outskirts, exposed international divisions. Haftar launched his campaign on April 4 during a visit to Libya by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 10 days before a national conference at the centre of a peace process planned by Salame was due to take place.

Since then, the Security Council failed to agree on any statement or resolution about the campaign. US President Donald Trump called Haftar early in the campaign to recognise his role in Libya.

The conflict saw hundreds of civilians killed and injured and more than 120 000 displaced. On October 6, an air strike blamed on Haftar’s forces hit a riding club near the UN compound in Tripoli, injuring children.

Salame said there would be a call for a ceasefire at the conference, which he hoped would take place in November.

He said the risks of further escalation – including the spread of militancy, a revival of migrant flows to Europe, disruption of oil supplies and regional instability – could help forge a deal among foreign powers.