UN demands all countries enforce arms embargo on Libya

Troops loyal to the Tripoli government prepare their weapon as they carry out patrols in Zamzam, near Abu Qareen, Libya. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 September 2020

UN demands all countries enforce arms embargo on Libya

  • The UN Security Council also called for political talks and a cease-fire in the war, stressing it has no military solution

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council adopted a resolution on Tuesday demanding that all countries enforce the widely violated UN arms embargo on Libya, withdraw all mercenaries from the North African nation.

The council also called for political talks and a cease-fire in the war, stressing it has no military solution. The vote was 13-0, with Russia and China abstaining.

In the years after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has sunk further into turmoil and is now divided between two rival administrations, based in the country’s east and west, with an array of fighters and militias — backed by various foreign powers — allied with each side.

The resolution’s approval follows a recent report by UN experts monitoring sanctions on Libya that accused its warring parties and their international backers of violating the arms embargo, saying it remains “totally ineffective.”

The resolution also extended UN’s political mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, until next September and stressed its “central role in facilitating a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned inclusive political process and in achieving a lasting cease-fire.”

The job of former UN special representative Ghassan Salame, who resigned in March, has been split into two, as the US demanded, putting a special envoy in charge of UNSMIL to focus on mediating with Libyan and international parties to end the conflict, with a coordinator in charge of day-to-day operations.

The US demand held up a replacement for Salame and the resolution asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a special envoy “without delay.” One possibility is the UN’s current top Mideast envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, a former Bulgarian foreign minister, UN diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private.

East-based forces, under commander Khalifa Haftar, launched an offensive in April 2019 trying to capture the capital, Tripoli. But Haftar’s campaign collapsed in June when militias backing the government in Tripoli, with Turkish support, gained the upper hand, driving his forces from the outskirts of the capital and other western towns.

In addition to countries that supplied weapons, the experts said 11 companies also violated the arms embargo, including the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company that in May provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to support Haftar’s forces. The warring sides and their international backers also failed to inspect aircraft or vessels believed to carry weapons and ammunition.

The UN resolution called on all parties “to commit without delay to a lasting cease-fire and political dialogue under the leadership” of the new special envoy.

It requests that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres assess the steps required to reach a lasting cease-fire and the possible role of UNSMIL “in providing scalable cease-fire support,” alongside a report within 60 days on proposals for monitoring a cease-fire under UN auspices.

EU members of the Security Council — Belgium, Estonia, France and Germany — and Ireland which will join the council on Jan. 1, said the resolution’s adoption “is important and comes at a moment of cautious optimism for Libya.”

They pointed to statements by Fayez Al-Sarraj, head of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, on Aug. 21 calling for a cease-fire across the country and demilitarizing the strategic city of Sirte which was supported by Aguila Saleh, speaker of the rival eastern-based House of Representatives, calling them “encouraging first steps to overcome the stalemate.” The EU members also encouraged Guterres to appoint a new special envoy as soon as possible.

The resolution also condemned “the forced shutdown of oil facilities,” reiterating that “Libya’s oil resources are for the benefit of all Libyans.”

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

Updated 26 October 2020

Pan-Arab poll: Biden better for region, but must shun Obama policies

  • Majority of respondents to Arab News/YouGov survey consider neither candidate good for region
  • Findings show strong Arab support for Trump on Iran but not on Jerusalem embassy move

RIYADH: Nearly half the respondents in an Arab News/YouGov poll conducted in 18 Middle East and Africa (MENA) countries believe neither candidate in the upcoming US elections will necessarily be good for the region.
Of the rest, 40 percent said Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden would be better for the region while 12 percent said the same thing about incumbent President Donald Trump. But a key takeaway of the poll is that if Biden, who served as vice president to Barack Obama until 2017, wins the White House race, he would be well advised to shed the Obama administration baggage.
When asked about policies implemented in the Middle East under the Obama administration, the most popular response (53 percent) was that the Democratic president left the region worse off, with another 58 percent saying Biden should distance himself from Obama-era policies.
The study surveyed a sample of 3,097 respondents online to find out how people in the MENA region feel about the Nov. 3 US elections.


This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Containing Iran was found to be one of the top four issues that respondents wanted the next US president to focus on. Strong support for Trump both maintaining a war posture against Iran and imposing strict sanctions against the Tehran regime was noticed in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three countries that have had intimate regional dealings with Iran.
President Trump’s 2017 decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem proved overwhelmingly unpopular, with 89 percent of Arabs opposing it. Surprisingly, in contrast to most other Arabs, Palestinian respondents inside the Palestinian Territories indicated a greater desire for the US to play a bigger role in mediation with Israel.
Arab opinion was largely split on the elimination this year of Iran’s regional “satrap” Gen. Qassem Soleimani, with the single largest proportion of respondents from Iraq (57 percent) and Lebanon (41 percent) seeing it as a positive move, as opposed to those in Syria and Qatar, where most respondents — respectively 57 percent and 62 percent — saw it as negative for the region.

Iran also figured in the list of perceived threats to US interests, although well behind white nationalism (32 percent) and China (22 percent). The other critical challenges for the US as viewed by Arabs were cybercrime, radical Islamic terrorism and climate change.
For a country that touts itself as an ally of the US, public attitudes in Qatar were found to be surprisingly out of sync with US objectives in the Middle East. The perception of radical Islamic terrorism, Iran and Islamist parties as the “three biggest threats facing the region” was much softer in Qatar compared with the region as a whole.
It came as little surprise that three quarters of respondents want the next US administration to make it easier for people from Arab countries to travel to the US. The figure for Lebanon, for instance, was even higher, 79 percent, underscoring concerns that many young Arabs are actively trying to leave the region.
Among other findings, Arabs remain overwhelmingly concerned about such challenges as failed government (66 percent) and the economic slowdown (43 percent).
Close to half of the respondents (44 percent) would like to see the next US president focus on empowering young people in the Arab region and solving the Arab-Israeli conflict (44 percent), followed by containing COVID-19 (37 percent), reining in Iran and Hezbollah (24 percent), quashing radical Islamic terrorism (24 percent) and tackling climate change (17 percent).