UN chief warns of ‘unprecedented’ foreign interference in Libya

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that foreign interference in the war in Libya has reached “unprecedented levels” and urged key players and their donors to unlock political deadlock and accepting a ceasefire and peace talks.

Calling the current situation “grim”, the UN chief said on Wednesday that the UN political mission in Libya was undertaking de-escalation efforts, “including the creation of a possible demilitarized zone”, in an attempt to achieve to a negotiated solution and to save lives. He said that between April 1 and June 30, there were at least 102 civilian deaths and 254 injured civilians in Libya, “an increase of 172% from the first quarter of 2020”.

Guterres addressed a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council six months after the leaders of 11 world powers and other countries with interests in the long civil war in Libya agreed during a conference in Berlin to comply with a violated UN arms embargo, to hold on to military support for the belligerent parties and to urge them to achieve a complete cease-fire.

Guterres and speaker after speaker denounced the failure of the parties to accede to the Berlin agreement and to demand its rapid implementation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South African Minister of International Relations Naledi Pandor and Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs were among those who called for a ceasefire.

“We all made strong commitments at the Berlin conference in January and now is the time to translate our words into concrete action,” said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell at the conference. virtual meeting. “The polarization that transformed Libya into a theater of war by proxy must end. Action in favor of one or other of the Libyan parties must cease. “

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Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since divided into rival administrations to the east and west, each supported by armed groups and foreign governments.

Eastern forces led by Khalifa Hifter launched an offensive trying to take Tripoli in April 2019, and the crisis in the oil-rich country continued to worsen, as foreign donors were increasingly more intervened despite the promises of the Berlin conference.

Hifter’s offensive is supported by France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries. The Tripoli government is supported by Turkey – which sent troops and mercenaries to protect the capital in January – as well as Italy and Qatar.

Forces based in Tripoli with the support of Turkey gained the upper hand during the war in early June after taking over the capital’s airport, all the main entry and exit points of the city and a series of key cities near Tripoli. They have threatened to retake the strategic city of Sirte, which could allow them to take control of the oil fields and facilities in the south that Hifter seized earlier this year as part of its Tripoli offensive.

Egypt has warned that it will intervene militarily if Turkish-backed forces attack Sirte and the indoor air base at Jufra.

António Guterres told the Security Council that the forces supporting the government are now 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Sirte, after two previous attempts to take control of the city.

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“The situation on the front lines has been fairly calm since June 10,” he said. “However, we are very concerned about the alarming military build-up around the city and the high level of direct foreign interference in the conflict in violation of the UN arms embargo, Security Council resolutions of the United Nations and the commitments made by member states in Berlin. “

Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal stressed that he was in Libya to support the legitimate government at his request and supported the Berlin agreement to provide “the architecture for intra-Libyan talks”.

Referring to Hifter’s offensive, Onal said: “Putting the aggressor on an equal footing with the legitimate government recognized by the UN is false and counterproductive. This serious error must be corrected. And he said that blaming Turkey for what’s going on in Libya “is tantamount to hypocrisy”.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the presidency of the Council and chaired the meeting, expressed dismay that while other countries were trying to save lives in the COVID-19 pandemic during In recent months, hospitals in Libya have been bombed and “ships, planes” and trucks with weapons and mercenaries have been arriving in Libyan cities. “

He said that foreign interference, “the main driver of the conflict in Libya”, must be lifted, and that there should be “no more lies” and “backdoor agreements” where foreign parties form spheres of influence.

“We will use the measures at our disposal, including targeted sanctions, to ensure that Libya is no longer the battleground of a foreign war,” Maas warned.

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He urged all parties to unite behind the UN-led peace efforts and behind an important first step which could be “a demilitarized solution for Sirte and Jufra”.

Source: AP News

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