posted on Fri 5 Apr 2019 11:59 AM
Libya: Consultations on the Tripoli Offensive

This afternoon (5 April), Council members will meet in consultations, at the request of the UK, to discuss the situation in Libya. Ghassan Salamé, the Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), will brief via video teleconference. The meeting was prompted by the announcement of a military offensive towards Tripoli by General Khalifa Haftar, head of a militia known as the “Libyan National Army” (LNA).

This announcement follows months of military escalation over control of key strategic locations in southern Libya, including oil fields, between LNA forces and militias affiliated with the UN-recognised Government of National Accord. The LNA, which has often argued that its main objective is to carry out counter-terrorism operations, has successfully taken over several towns south of Tripoli.

The military escalation takes place as the UN is preparing to convene a national conference on 14-16 April, intended to provide an opportunity for Libyans to decide how the nation should proceed to the end of the transition towards a democratically governed state. One of the desired outcomes of the conference is agreement on the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections as well as a constitutional referendum.

Secretary-General António Guterres, who is currently in Libya, has expressed his deep concern at the military movement taking place, and the risk of confrontation. Yesterday he reiterated that only intra-Libyan dialogue can solve Libyan problems. Today he was in the east, which is the base of operations of the LNA. Briefing the Council on 20 March, Salamé stressed that a failure to advance the political process at this critical juncture would demonstrate “that the country is totally controlled by [the] force of arms”.

Council members are expected to discuss press elements at the meeting, but it is unclear what additional steps they plan to take as the situation unfolds. In general, they have expressed support for the role of UNSMIL in the stabilisation of Libya, but they have divergent views on how best to achieve this goal. Although the Council has repeatedly called upon member states to cease support for and official contact with parallel institutions in Libya, several countries, including some Council members, have ignored this call. In a 3 April statement, France, Italy, the UAE, the UK and the US urged all parties to immediately de-escalate tensions and stressed that “military posturing and threats of unilateral action only risk propelling Libya back toward chaos”. These governments expressed their commitment to “hold accountable any Libyan faction that precipitates further civil conflict”, although some of them have supported Haftar militarily.