Abdel-Elah Mohamed Al-Khatib, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, briefs the Security Council on the situation in that country.
@UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

Mr. Al-Khatib: I appreciate this opportunity to brief the Security Council on the situation in Libya and to discuss the events that have taken place since the last briefing by the Secretary-General, held on 24 March, including my second mission to the country.

Despite the effectiveness of the efforts made by coalition members to implement a no-fly zone and to protect civilians, the fighting has continued between the ground forces of the armed opposition and Colonel Al Qadhafi’s loyalists. On 31 March, Colonel Al Qadhafi’s ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town, Ras Lanouf, and moved within striking distance of another major eastern city, Brega, nearly reversing the advances made by opposition fighters since international air strikes began on 19 March. Also on 31 March, one of the most senior officials of the regime, Mr. Musa Kousa, Minister for Foreign Affairs, flew to London and declared that he could no longer serve as a representative of the Libyan Government.

Over the weekend, fighting continued in the cities of Misratah, Zawiya and Brega. There are unconfirmed reports that Government forces have started shelling towns southwest of Tripoli. Air strikes also continued over the weekend around Sirte and Ras Lanouf, 240 and 650 kilometres east of Tripoli, respectively.

At the London Conference on Libya, convened on 29 March by Prime Minister David Cameron, more than 40 representatives, including from the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the European Union, the League of Arab States and NATO, gathered to take stock of the situation in Libya and to consult on ways in which to help the people of Libya.

As an outcome of the conference, participants agreed to establish an International Contact Group on Libya, which would, first, provide leadership and overall political direction to the international effort, in close coordination with the United Nations, the African Union, the League of Arab States, the OIC and the European Union to support Libya; secondly, provide a forum for coordinating the international response on Libya; and thirdly, provide a focal point in the international community for contact with the Libyan parties.

Although discussions concerning the membership are still ongoing, they tend towards a membership of 12 to 15 that would have a regional balance and include international organizations. Participants in the London Conference welcomed the Secretary-General’s offer to take a leading role in the coordination of humanitarian assistance and the planning for longer-term stabilization support.

On 31 March, I undertook my second mission to Libya, starting with a one-day visit to Tripoli, where I met with Libyan Government officials, including Mr. Al Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi, Secretary-General of the General People’s Congress, considered as Prime Minister, and senior members of the Foreign Relations Committee of the People’s Congress, including Mr. Abdul-Ati al-Obeidi and Mr. Mohamed Siala, the Secretary-General of the People’s Congress.

I reiterated the international community’s demand for the full implementation of Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) and emphasized the urgent need to immediately stop military action, cease all hostilities against the Libyan civilian population and end the siege of all cities and towns. I also stressed the need to respect the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people and secure safe access for humanitarian assistance in all cities and towns, especially Misrata and Zintan, in addition to allowing for the safe return of migrant workers from besieged cities. I called for the release of all foreign journalists, including the four members of the Al-Jazeera crew.

On 1 April, I went to Benghazi and met with Mr. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Chairman of the interim Transitional National Council (TNC), and many of the members of the Council. They set out for me their vision of a democratic Libya. The initial priority is to restore constitutional legitimacy through a referendum. It outlines their principles and obligations with respect to political democracy, calling for economic prosperity and development, and the use of science and technology to enhance society, and condemning intolerance, extremism and violence. It also lays out future relations with the international community, whereby they seek regional integration and international cooperation, upholding the values of international justice, citizenship and respect of humanitarian law, and confirms their respect for international treaties and agreements with other States, ensuring international peace and security through cooperation with and peaceful coexistence among nations and peoples.

I briefed the Council on my discussions with the Libyan Government in Tripoli the previous day, and I indicated that the Libyan authorities had informed me of their willingness to accept a ceasefire under the supervision of impartial observers if the TNC did the same. The Chairman stated that the Council was ready and willing to implement a ceasefire provided that the other party did the same and that such a ceasefire included ending the siege on all western cities, withdrawing military forces, including snipers, from the cities, and allowing the population to freely express their position.

Furthermore, they indicated that the aim of the people’s uprising was to see the departure of Colonel Al-Qadhafi and that a ceasefire alone would not be sufficient to end the conflict in Libya. However, media reports quote Government statements indicating a rejection of a ceasefire. The Council raised concerns about the lack of funds as well as issues surrounding the marketing and sale of oil and gas in Libya, stressing that the issue required urgent attention in order to enable the economy to function effectively. The Council pointed out that sustainability was dependent on two major sources — loans guaranteed against oil and gas sales and overseas frozen assets.

With respect to the Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council, the TNC said that it welcomed its establishment and that they were prepared to work closely with the Commission.

During my meeting with the TNC, I received a briefing by one of its members, from the city of Misratah, who had travelled for 30 hours to attend the meeting. He and the other members of the TNC urged that immediate action be taken to put an end to the extremely grave situation that continues to prevail in that city.

On 31 March, as I undertook my second trip to Libya, the African Union held a technical meeting at its headquarters to exchange views on the cessation of hostilities in Libya. The meeting was attended by representatives of the European Union, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations. During the meeting, participants discussed various possible options for resolving the Libyan crisis and modalities for a ceasefire.

I very much welcome the AU effort and strongly hope that the international community will work in unison to bring about a swift end to the violence and suffering of the Libyan people. I also welcome the 25 March ruling of the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights, which calls upon the Libyan Government to refrain from any actions that would result in the loss of life or violation of the physical integrity of persons, and requests that the Government report to it within 15 days on actions taken to comply with this ruling.

Information about the humanitarian situation in Libya remains limited due to lack of access to different parts of the country. However, it is feared that there are significant protection concerns, such as landmines, gender-based violence and human rights violations. Overall, humanitarian conditions, especially in and around areas where fighting is taking place, remain grave, particularly regarding medical and protection needs. These locations also suffer from the disruption of regular services and supply lines.

There have been population movements reported inside Libya around Ajdabiya. According to the International Medical Corps, tens of thousands fled the fighting in the city; while some have returned, as the situation continues to be unstable they may be on the move again. As of 4 April, over 400,000 people had fled Libya. More than 12,000 remain stranded along Libya’s borders with Tunisia and Egypt. As of 29 March, the International Organization of Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had provided evacuation assistance for more than 88,000 people who had left Libya. While the population movement initially consisted of male migrant workers, the number of women and children arriving at border crossing areas has increased slightly over the past week. Some small but increasing numbers of migrant families with women and children crossing the borders are reporting having experienced intimidation, harassment and violence within Libya.

Increasingly, more migrants with significant medical conditions such as injuries, mental health ailments and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases have been seen and referred for further treatment and care.

The support provided by the Governments of Tunisia and Egypt to facilitate the work of the humanitarian community has been invaluable, as has been the remarkable outpouring of assistance from local civil society organizations and the people of those countries. As of 3 April, the Flash Humanitarian Appeal for Libya was currently funded at around 70 per cent at $113 million, with $1.4 million in pledges. The United Nations has now started its security needs assessments to areas in the east. A humanitarian needs assessment will follow shortly.

Since I assumed the functions of Special Envoy more than three weeks ago, I have made four separate trips to Libya — two to Tripoli, one to Tobruk and another to Benghazi. I have engaged myself fully in establishing contacts with both sides and consulting broadly with the international community. I am prepared to travel again to Libya as the situation requires, and I am planning to undertake further consultations with regional and international parties.

At this time, it is still very difficult to know how long it will take for the Libyan conflict to be resolved. However, responsibility for finding a solution lies with the Libyan people themselves. Furthermore, it is also clear that the international community must continue to come together and do all it can to support this quest for a solution, especially by providing the necessary support for the United Nations to fully implement Security Council resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011).

Ref. UN : S/PV.6509