Countries fuelling Libya conflict must be stopped

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Libya is on the brink of a civil war that could “lead to permanent division of the country,” a top UN official warned the Security Council as he urged the world body to stop countries fuelling the conflict with weapons.

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame did not name countries supplying arms to the UN-recognised government of national accord (GNA) or rival eastern Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

He did reference recent arms deliveries to both parties. Libya has been subject to a UN arms embargo since 2011 but government is allowed to import weapons and related materiel with approval of a UN Security Council committee.

“Without a robust enforcement mechanism the arms embargo into Libya will become a cynical joke. Some nations are fuelling this bloody conflict; the United Nations should put an end to it,” Salame told the Security Council.

Any action by the UN Security Council is unlikely as it is deadlocked on how to deal with the latest violence.

The most recent flare-up in conflict in Libya – gripped by anarchy since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled in 2011 – began in early April, when Haftar’s LNA advanced on Tripoli. The LNA is bogged down in the city’s southern suburbs by fighters loyal to Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj’s GNA.

GNA-allied forces received a shipment of armoured vehicles and arms on Saturday. Pictures and videos posted on Facebook showed what appeared to be Turkish-made BMC Kirpi armoured vehicles in Tripoli port.

Salame described the delivery as a “blatant and televised breach of the arms embargo,” adding the LNA was receiving “ongoing deliveries of banned modern weaponry.”

Since 2014, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt provided Haftar’s LNA with military equipment including aircraft and helicopters according to UN sanctions monitors. They reported investigating the likely use of an armed drone by the LNA or a supporting “third party” in a recent attack on GNA-affiliated forces.

“Many countries are providing weapons to all parties in the conflict without exception,” Salame told the Security Council.

The UAE and Egypt see Haftar’s forces as a bulwark against Islamists in North Africa.

Salame warned the focus of Haftar’s forces on Tripoli created a security vacuum in the south that was exploited by Islamic State and al Qaeda militants.

“Libyan forces that had in the past courageously defended their country against these terrorist groups are now busy fighting each other,” he said.