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.”


Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

Updated 23 October 2020

Turkey irked over joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

  • The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed a joint statement by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that condemns Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and numerous “provocations” that they maintain are threatening regional peace.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “fully rejected the declaration containing baseless accusations and allegations.”
During a trilateral regional summit on Wednesday in Nicosia, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Ankara to end its “aggressive” actions.
The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations. Greece and Cyprus have signed maritime border agreements with Egypt while dismissing a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the declaration attacked Ankara rather than supporting peace and stability in the region. It repeated Turkey’s position that cooperation could only take place with the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in governing and sharing the resources of the ethnically divided island nation.
“We will continue with determination to protect our rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean,” the ministry statement said.
The trilateral summit took place amid high tensions between nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey over maritime borders and energy rights.
In late summer, Turkey dispatched a research vessel escorted by warships to conduct seismic research in a part of the Mediterranean Sea that Greece claims as its territory, which prompted the Greek government to deploy its own warships.
Turkey pulled the research ship back to shore for several weeks for maintenance and to allow time for diplomacy but redeployed the Oruc Reis on a new energy exploration mission. A maritime announcement by Turkey says the Oruc Reis and two other ships would continue working in the area until Oct. 27.
Turkey also has had ships prospecting for oil and gas reserves in waters that Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone.