- ©UN Photo/Paulo Filgueiras
Mr. Abdel-Elah Mohamed Al-Khatib: I thank the Security Council for this opportunity to brief it once again on the situation in Libya and on my continuous efforts to establish and maintain a dialogue with all sides concerned on implementing resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011). Let me start by highlighting the latest significant developments in Libya.
Most recently, intense fighting has expanded into the south and west of the country. Heavy fighting has continued between pro-Al-Qadhafi troops and the opposition forces in the western region, the Western Mountains and Nalut district, including the cities of Yafran and Zintan, as well as in the south-eastern part of the country, including Kufra and Jalu.
Fighting has broken out in the Western Mountains. As a result, clashes spilled over into the eastern Tunisian city of Dehiba during attempts by pro-Al-Qadhafi and opposition forces to control the key border post on either side of the Libyan-Tunisian frontier, the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing. The Tunisian army has strengthened its positions on the southern border with Libya. Thousands of ethnic Berbers have fled from Libya into Tunisia. In the remote south-eastern corner of the country, the regime forces have allegedly advanced and seized control of the town of Kufra. Furthermore, pro-Al-Qadhafi forces stormed the oasis town of Jalu, south of Ajdabiya, on Sunday, 1 May.
For the past few months, as the Council is aware, fighting has continued to intensify in the western city of Misrata, which is the third-largest city in Libya and the main gateway before reaching the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Despite Colonel Al-Qadhafi’s televised statement on 30 April that he was ready for a ceasefire and negotiations, provided NATO stopped its planes, Tripoli has declared a sea blockade on the besieged city of Misrata.
Last Saturday afternoon, 30 April, I received a message from Colonel Al-Qaddafi, reporting that NATO had bombed his family’s home and had killed his son, Saif Al-Arab, and some of his grandchildren and that he and his wife had survived the attack. Colonel Al-Qaddafi called on the international community to act, saying that the current situation was no longer tolerable.
I responded by expressing my condolences to Colonel Al-Qadhafi, his family and all the Libyan families that had lost children and loved ones. In addition, I stated that his tragic loss highlights the need to immediately stop the use of force in a manner that would open the path to a political solution, consistent with the legitimate demands and aspirations of the Libyan people.
The United Nations premises in Tripoli were ransacked later that night. The United Nations humanitarian mission in Tripoli had to leave temporarily due to the overall security situation. The Government sent another letter to me on 2 May, expressing its regret over the damage done to the United Nations building in Tripoli. It apologized for the incident and reiterated the important role of the United Nations, especially concerning the humanitarian aspects.
As Mr. Pascoe briefed the Council extensively a few days ago on the humanitarian situation in the country, I will provide only the latest updates. More than 665,000 people have fled Libya since the beginning of the conflict. As hostilities in the Nafusa/Western Mountains continue, fighting in Zintan and Nalut and around Wazin has led to around about 39,000 people crossing into Tunisia to date, and more than 21,500 since 21 April.
Sea mines were discovered offshore of Misrata on 30 April. Reports indicate that Government forces are bombarding the port area and other parts of Misrata. A ship belonging to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been prevented from docking since Saturday to evacuate about 1,000 people, mainly African migrants and dozens of wounded Libyan civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross has suspended sea operations temporarily. To date, IOM has evacuated about 12,000 people, mostly third-country nationals, from Misrata. IOM estimates that a further 500-1,500 people need to be evacuated.
Since my last briefing to the Council (see S/PV.6509), I understand that members have been briefed extensively on the Doha and Cairo conferences by the Secretary-General and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Therefore, let me start from that point onwards.
On 17 April, I visited Tripoli for the third time. I was accompanied by Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. Valerie Amos, and we met with senior Government officials, including the Prime Minister, Mr. Al Baghdadi Ali Al-Mahmoudi, Foreign Minister Abdulati Al-Obeidi, and other senior officials to further discuss the political and humanitarian situation in Libya in light of recent developments. The Libyan Government signed a humanitarian agreement with the United Nations to allow international humanitarian access to all areas of Libya that are affected by the conflict. The Government agreed that it would allow safe access to humanitarian workers to provide assistance to those in need and allow foreign workers to leave the country if they wished to do so.
I went to Benghazi again on April 29 to meet with the Interim Transitional National Council (TNC). I am grateful to the Italian Government for facilitating and providing the necessary assistance for this particular trip. I met with the Chairman of the TNC, Mr. Mustafa Abdeljalil, and several other Council members. I also met with the international community and donors in Benghazi, as well as with United Nations staff members, whose humanitarian work is very much appreciated.
In all my meetings and discussions with the Libyan authorities and the TNC, I strongly and continuously reiterated the calls of the Secretary-General and the international community for the full implementation of resolutions 1970 (20110 and 1973 (2011), and condemned the use of force against the civilians of Libya. I stated that the Government must take full responsibility for meeting the aspirations of its people and ensuring the full implementation of Security Council resolutions. In this context, I urged the Libyan authorities to guarantee the delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need, especially in Misrata. I reiterated the call for the full implementation of a real and verifiable ceasefire as a first step of an inclusive political process that would lead to a truly genuine national dialogue and political transition. Concerning Misrata, I urged the Government to stop all military action immediately.
I attended the meeting of the African Union (AU) Ad Hoc High-Level Committee on 25 April. In addition to meeting with the Foreign Ministers of the High-Level Committee, I met with senior officials of the African Union, Libyan Government representatives, including the Libyan Foreign Minister, and opposition representatives. The AU Committee stands by its position that the Libyan parties should come to the negotiating table as part of a political process to discuss issues of major concern, including a ceasefire, in the framework of the resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011), and that the African Union should play a major role in monitoring a ceasefire mechanism, in close cooperation with the United Nations.
The role of the African Union, along with other regional and international organizations, is critical. I continue to reiterate the need for the United Nations and regional organizations, including the African Union, the League of Arab States and others, to work together to find a lasting solution to the Libyan crisis.
On 28 April, I met with the Turkish and Italian Foreign Ministers to discuss the ongoing crisis in Libya in the framework of resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011). In Ankara, I exchanged views with the Foreign Minister of Turkey on the implementation of a ceasefire and the way forward to bring about a solution to the situation in Libya. He reiterated Turkey’s determination to fully coordinate all diplomatic activity regarding the Libyan crisis with the United Nations. The Government of Turkey has been at the forefront in providing humanitarian assistance, carrying hundreds of injured people from the Libyan city of Misrata to Benghazi last month on humanitarian ships.
I met with the Foreign Minister of Italy on 28 April. We stressed the urgent need to protect civilians and assist the Libyan people to meet their legitimate demands and aspirations, while emphasizing the need to continue facilitating a coordinated international approach to providing humanitarian assistance to those in dire need.
Let me move on to the positions of the Libyan parties on a ceasefire. The Libyan authorities and the TNC alike have informed me that they are ready and willing to implement a ceasefire, provided that the other party does the same. Both sides have stated that they are ready to cease all hostilities if there is a genuine desire on the part of the other party to do the same in a just manner.
However, for the Libyan authorities, a ceasefire must be accompanied by an end to the attacks by NATO in order to pave the road to national dialogue. They have told me that if NATO attacks were to stop, the Libyan Government would be in a position to hold discussions about elections, democracy and constitutional reform. The Libyan authorities have stated that the way out of this impasse is to determine a specific date and time for a ceasefire under the supervision of impartial monitors, at which time the indiscriminate bombings against the military and civilians must stop simultaneously. Government officials have also agreed that the United Nations should coordinate an international monitoring mechanism for the ceasefire, in close collaboration with the African Union.
The TNC, on the other hand, has indicated to me that a ceasefire would not be sufficient to end the conflict in Libya if it is not directly linked to the departure of Colonel Al-Qadhafi and his family. The TNC has made it clear that its position is that no negotiations will take place with either Colonel Al-Qadhafi or his family.
I have emphasized to both parties that a real and verifiable ceasefire should be part of wider measures, to include lifting the siege on all cities, especially Misrata and Zintan; withdrawing military forces from all cities; allowing immediate humanitarian access and assistance to all cities under military attack; releasing all detainees; resuming delivery of basic supplies, including water, electricity, medical supplies, fuel and communication services, to all parts of the country; and securing the passage of foreign workers stranded in these cities.
As for their willingness to start a national dialogue, the Government authorities have said they are willing to engage in a national political dialogue to discuss all relevant reforms in the country with all those concerned. In addition, they have stated that national legal institutions have started to investigate the events that led to the crisis, in an attempt to comply with Security Council resolutions.
The TNC has provided a road map for a transitional process. They have called upon the international community to recognize the TNC as the legitimate and sole interlocutor between the Libyan people and the international community. The road map mentions the next steps that they envisage in the political and economic domains.
On the issue of frozen assets, the Libyan Government has stated that it is presently facing severe humanitarian shortages as a result of the assets freeze imposed by paragraph 17 of resolution 1970 (2011). They have expressed grave concern about the impact of certain aspects of resolution 1973 (2011), especially on the delivery of basic goods and services to the general population. In that context, the Government has requested that it be allowed to use frozen assets for the basic needs of the Libyan people. They have also protested the sale of crude oil.
As the Special Envoy to Libya, I am in constant contact with leaders and interlocutors, in a formal and an informal manner. I will continue to exert every effort to try to find a lasting solution to the Libyan crisis, in accordance with the Security Council’s resolutions. In order to be successful in that endeavour, it is important to strengthen a sense of convergence of goals and process among all actors who are working towards a peaceful solution to the Libyan conflict. Each country and regional organization that has undertaken efforts to find a lasting solution brings with it special assets and perspectives. I will therefore continue to engage with Member States and regional organizations to ensure that those efforts are unified and that they send a coherent message.
My immediate task is to continue to undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and Benghazi, and with other concerned interlocutors, on the key elements of resolutions 1970 (2011) and 1973 (2011) — which are, unrestricted access for humanitarian assistance wherever it is needed, an immediate ceasefire and a political process that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people.
The establishment of a United Nations and other humanitarian presence in Benghazi and the 17 April agreement signed with the Libyan Government on humanitarian assistance are the first steps necessary for that objective. In that regard, humanitarian ceasefires need to be part of the negotiations to ensure the provision of protection and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations, preserve humanitarian space and promote better respect for international humanitarian law.
A real and credible ceasefire must be agreed upon to suspend aggressive actions and killings of innocent civilians, including women and children. A ceasefire must be declared either formally or, in a first step, as part of an informal understanding between the opposing forces in Libya. Both sides have expressed their agreement on the need for a verifiable ceasefire. I am working with experts in the United Nations and with representatives of regional organizations, especially the African Union, on the specific modalities that could be involved.
The challenge in the communications and negotiations is a multifaceted and sensitive one that is time-bound, where the difficulty lies in how to link a credible and verifiable ceasefire with a lasting political process that remains inclusive of all relevant parties. The main difficulty at this stage is getting all sides to agree on the essential elements of a political process that meets the aspirations of the Libyan people. To achieve that, I hope to have the Council’s continued, full and unhindered support.