Libya risks return to wide conflict, UN chief warns

ASSOCIATED PRESS
UNITED NATIONS
Published 17.04.2017 01:38

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Libya risks a return to widespread conflict, citing the volatile security situation in Tripoli and fighting in the eastern oil crescent and elsewhere.

The U.N. chief expressed alarm in a report to the U.N. Security Council at the renewed military escalation and ongoing political stalemate in the country.

Guterres said the Daesh terrorist group no longer controls territory in Libya, but its operatives have been sighted, it has been blamed for a number of attacks in different areas, and the international community in the country remains a target.

The overthrow of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011 has spawned chaos across the country. The power and security vacuum turned the country into a breeding ground for militias and militants, including Daesh terrorists and al-Qaida affiliates. It has also made Libya a gateway for thousands of migrants from Africa and elsewhere seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Italy.

Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias, tribes and political factions.

A U.N.-brokered deal in December 2015 to create a unity government has failed because the U.N.-backed government now in Tripoli has been unable to win the endorsement of Libya's internationally recognized Parliament in eastern Tobruk, which is a prerequisite to assume power.

Guterres said the U.N.-backed Presidency Council and government remain "constrained in their ability to govern effectively and to provide much needed basic services and security to the population." He said the 2015 political agreement continues to be supported by the majority of Libyans and interested countries "as the only political framework to lead the country forward."

An emerging consensus on the need for limited amendments to the agreement "represents an opportunity to overcome the current political stalemate and move the transition forward," he said.

Guterres urged all parties in Libya to address the key issues blocking implementation of the agreement including the composition of various institutions, especially the executive authority and military command.

Between Dec. 1 and Feb. 17, Guterres said the U.N. political mission in Libya documented 24 deaths and 24 injuries of civilians, mainly by gunfire, airstrikes, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.

Migrants and refugees in Libya also "continue to suffer horrific abusers and risk death while transiting the country and across the Mediterranean Sea," he said.

While forces allied to the U.N.-backed government routed Daesh from its stronghold in Sirte in December, Guterres said remnants are still active "in the hinterland" of the city.

They also maintain a presence in the desert and mountainous areas south of Bani Walid and areas further south and west, and there are reports of IS sleeper cells in western coastal areas and the greater Tripoli area, he said. He said 1.3 million people need humanitarian aid, the health care system "is on the brink of collapse" and the U.N. has received only $9 million of the $151 million it appealed for to help 900,000 people.

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