Major players in Libya strife pledge to uphold arms embargo

Updated February 17, 2020

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The countries involved include the five permanent members of UNSC, along with Italy, Turkey and UAE.  — AFP/File
The countries involved include the five permanent members of UNSC, along with Italy, Turkey and UAE. — AFP/File

MUNICH: Countries with interests in Libya’s civil war recommitted themselves on Sunday to uphold a barely working arms embargo, four weeks after a peace summit in Berlin was followed by numerous new arms violations, officials from Germany and the UN said.

Germany and the UN, which co-hosted the Jan 19 Berlin summit, gathered foreign ministers and other officials from a dozen countries on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to try to bolster a drive to cut off outside military support for Libya’s warring parties.

The countries involved include the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, along with Italy, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Sunday’s meeting formally launched an international follow-up committee on Libya. Italy will co-chair the next meeting, in Rome in March.

At the Berlin summit, participants agreed to respect the arms embargo, hold off on military support to Libya’s warring parties and push them to reach a full ceasefire. But UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres says that agreement has been repeatedly violated by continuing arms deliveries and an escalation in fighting.

On Sunday, the participants had a discussion on the deplorable recent violations of the arms embargo, renewed their determination to contribute to its thorough implementation and welcomed progress regarding more efficient monitoring of the embargo, the German and UN hosts said in a statement.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said they spoke very openly about recent violations.

Different opinions were voiced on what this is down to, but everyone agrees that the road we have taken namely, to separate the parties to the conflict from their supporters remains the only promising road to ending the civil war in Libya, he told reporters.

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled longtime dictator Moammar Qadhafi, who was later killed.

A weak UN-recognized administration that now holds the capital of Tripoli and parts of the country’s west is backed by Turkey, which recently sent thousands of soldiers to Libya, and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy as well as local militias.

On the other side is a rival government in the east that supports self-styled Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces launched an offensive to capture Tripoli last April. They are backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia.

Since the Berlin summit, the rival Libyan military factions have met in Geneva in a UN-led effort to forge a lasting truce. A first round of talks end­ed without officials signing an agreement, but Maas said a second rou­nd will begin in Geneva on Tuesday.

The UN also expects to hold the first meeting of an inclusive Libyan political forum in Geneva in 10 days’ time but Stephanie Williams, the deputy UN envoy for Libya, said that the situation on the ground is deeply troubling.

A fragile existing truce is holding only by a thread, with numerous over 150 violations, she said. An oil blockade by allies of Hifter’s forces is deepening Libya’s economic woes.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2020