UN condemns clashes in Libyan capital, urges security reforms

Libya’s eastern government foreign minister, AbdulHadi Al-Hawaij, left, visits Al-Sidra oil port in the east, as the country is torn between the rival powers. (AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2020

UN condemns clashes in Libyan capital, urges security reforms

  • Russia, China block release of UN report on Libya that accuses warring parties of violating arms embargo

TRIPOLI, NEW YORK: The UN has condemned clashes between two armed groups in a residential suburb of the Libyan capital and the use of heavy weapons.

UNSMIL, the world body’s support mission in Libya, in a statement late Friday expressed “great concern” over the fighting in the eastern suburb of Tajoura.
“Heavy weapons” were used in a “civilian-populated neighborhood,” in clashes that caused “damage to private properties and put civilians in harm’s way,” it said.
UNSMIL said it “reminds all parties of their obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law” and called for urgent reforms to boost security.
The clashes broke out late Thursday between two militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), but the cause remains unclear.
At least three people were killed and several wounded in the two camps, according to unconfirmed local reports. Residents said the clashes ended at midday on Friday.
UN report
Russia and China meanwhile blocked the official release of a report by UN experts on Libya that accused its warring parties and their international backers — including Russia — of violating a UN arms embargo on the conflict-wracked country, UN diplomats said on Friday.
Germany’s deputy UN ambassador, Günter Sautter, said he brought the issue to the Security Council after the two countries blocked the report’s release by the committee monitoring sanctions on Libya, which Germany heads.

I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.

Günter Sautter, Deputy UN ambassador

When asked what Germany could do if Russia and China blocked the report’s release again, Sautter said: “Let me assure you I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.”

“Many delegations have asked for the publication of the panel of experts’ interim report,” he said. “This would create much needed transparency. It would contribute to naming and shaming those who continue to blatantly violate the arms embargo in spite of agreements that have been made.”
But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because Friday’s council consultations were closed, said Russia and close ally China again blocked the report’s publication.
Sautter said before the meeting, when asked what Germany could do if Russia and China blocked the report’s release again: “Let me assure you I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.”
The report, seen by The Associated Press earlier this month, said the arms embargo was being violated by Libya’s UN-supported government in the west, which is backed by Turkey and Qatar, and by rival east-based forces under commander Khalifa Haftar, backed by Russia. The panel said the embargo remains “totally ineffective.”
The experts said 11 companies also violated the arms embargo, including the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company that the panel said in May provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to Haftar.
In addition, the experts said the warring parties and their international backers failed to inspect aircraft or vessels if they have reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains military weapons and ammunition, as required by a 2015 Security Council resolution.
In the years after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler 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 Security Council adopted a resolution on Sept. 15 demanding that all countries enforce the widely violated UN arms embargo on Libya and withdraw all mercenaries from the North African nation. It also extended the UN political mission in Libya and called for political talks and a cease-fire in the war, which the UN has been pursuing.
One glaring gap for the UN has been the failure to replace its former top envoy, Ghassan Salame, who resigned in March, mainly as the result of a US demand to split his job in two. The resolution adopted last week did split it, putting a special envoy in charge of the UN mission to focus on mediating with Libyan and international parties to end the conflict and providing for a coordinator to be in charge of day-to-day operations.
But finding a replacement acceptable to all Security Council diplomats has proven exceedingly difficult.
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. But the diplomats said the three African members of the council — South Arica, Niger and Tunisia — oppose him because they want an African in the job.
Germany’s Sautter said the Security Council has agreed that there will be a special envoy “and we need an agreement urgently on who that is going to be.”


Arab coalition commander renews support to Yemen

Updated 29 October 2020

Arab coalition commander renews support to Yemen

  • Assurance comes as the governor of Aden thanked it for helping local security authorities intercept a major cargo of drugs at Aden seaport
  • Yemen’s defense minister said on Wednesday that at least 800 Houthi fighters, including senior field commanders, had been killed since the beginning of this month

AL-MUKALLA: The coalition will continue backing Yemeni military forces fighting the Houthis until the country returns to normal, the commander of Arab coalition forces in the southern city of Aden has said.

During a meeting with Aden’s new governor, Ahmed Lamlis, Brig. Gen. Nayef Al-Otaibi said that the coalition would continue its support till Yemen recovered from the war and its state bodies functioned normally, Yemeni state media said on Wednesday.

The coalition’s assurance comes as the governor of Aden thanked it for helping local security authorities intercept a major cargo of drugs at Aden seaport. The governor told the Arab coalition commander that local authorities in Aden were looking forward to receiving more support from the coalition, enabling them to bring back peace and stability to Aden and fix vital services there.

The Arab coalition and local security authorities at Aden seaport recently announced a 500kg cocaine and heroin bust worth millions of dollars. The drugs were hidden inside sugar bags in a large sugar shipment originating from Brazil. There was no information about arrests in connection with the drugs bust but local security officials said that investigations were underway.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s defense minister said on Wednesday that at least 800 Houthi fighters, including senior field commanders, had been killed since the beginning of this month in fighting with government troops or in Arab coalition airstrikes.

Based on Houthi burial statements carried on their media, the rebels have buried more than 600 fighters, including 154 field leaders, since Oct. 1, in different provinces under their control. In the capital, Sanaa, the rebels have arranged funeral processions for 178 dead fighters, including 67 field commanders with different military rankings, the ministry said in a statement on its news site.

Most of the Houthi deaths occurred in the provinces of Marib and Jouf, where rebel forces are engaging in heavy fighting with government forces and allied tribesmen, backed by Arab coalition warplanes.

State media also quoted the governor of Jouf, Ameen Al-Oukaimi, as saying that government forces had inflicted a huge defeat on the Houthis during the latest intense fighting in the province. Yemeni Army commanders said that they foiled Houthis attempts to recapture the liberated Al-Khanjer military base and surrounding areas in Jouf.

In the western province of Hodeidah, the Joint Forces, an umbrella term for three major military units in the country’s western coast, said that a Houthi field military leader, Mohammed Yahya Al-Hameli, was killed during a foiled rebel assault in the province on Wednesday.

Fighting has continued across Yemen despite repeated calls by the UN and western diplomats for Yemeni factions to halt hostilities and focus on approving the UN-brokered peace initiative known as the Joint Declaration. On Thursday, British Ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron called on the internationally recognized President of Yemen Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthis to engage in serious talks to end the war.

“President Hadi and the Houthi leadership must work seriously and urgently with the UN Yemen envoy to end the war in Yemen by concluding the Joint Declaration in order to avert a humanitarian catastrophe,” the ambassador said on Twitter.

The declaration proposes a nationwide truce ahead of the implementation of economic and humanitarian measures. When the fighting stops, the Yemeni parties will be asked to engage in direct talks to discuss postwar political arrangements.