Libya Tribune

By Richard Galustian

What can break the deadlock in Libya’s civil war? Ghassan Salame, the UN’s point man for Libya, began his analysis and brief to the Security Council last week by emphasising that the armed conflict in Libya “shows no signs of abating”. 

He added, “The war around Tripoli has already left nearly 1,100 dead, including 106 civilians. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes in the capital and neighbouring districts as a result of the fighting, tens of thousands crossing the border to Tunisia seeking safety for their families.”

Salame detailed that more than 100,000 men, women and children have been immediately exposed to what amounts to ‘war frontlines’, and over 400,000 more in other areas are directly impacted by clashes.

Both sides have ignored calls for de-escalation and have intensified air drone campaigns with precision airstrikes. 

Supplying both sides with almost equal numbers of weapons is Turkey on one side, supporting the essentially Muslim Brotherhood-backed Serraj Tripoli Government, while a combination of the UAE, Egypt and France appears to support and supply defence equipment to Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s LNA Army from East Libya.

The West is actually maintaining military parity for both sides, which seems to be a deliberate policy that simply prolongs the conflict. Why, one may ask? That is another issue altogether.

The scope of the violence has spread. On July 26, Serraj’s Government of National Accord forces launched an air attack on the main rear base of Haftar’s LNA in the Jufra region. In retaliation on July 27, Haftar’s forces launched air strikes at a Government of National Accord airbase in Misrata.

And so, it goes on. A most tragic example of indiscriminate attacks was the airstrike that hit a migrant detention centre in Tajoura on July 2, killing 53 and injuring at least 87, including children. 

What is even more appalling is that the precise coordinates of the Tajoura detention centre, and other such centres, were shared by the UN with the parties following a previous incident in May. 

While most of the fatalities were due to the air strike, several victims were cruelly shot down fleeing the scene by those GNA militias guarding the centre. 

To make matters even worse, following UN supported efforts to move the migrants to more secure locations, authorities have in recent days deposited more than 200 migrants back into the same bombed facility.

Salame explained: “The tragedy of up to 150 migrant deaths at sea on July 25 again underlines the urgent need to address the root causes of the migrant issue and their immediate suffering.”

Haftar’s LNA maintains that they will not stop their attack until Tripoli is conquered while Serraj’s GNA forces insist they can push Haftar’s forces back to eastern Libya.

Armed drones, armoured vehicles and pick-up trucks fitted with heavy armaments machine guns, recoilless rifles, mortar and rocket launchers have been recently transferred to Libya by unscrupulous foreign countries with their own selfish interests being their uppermost consideration.

Without the full cooperation of all UN member States, the flow of weapons to Libya will continue to fuel this needless conflict

Without the full cooperation of all UN member States regarding the implementation of the measures related to the arms embargo in accordance with Security Council resolution 2473, the flow of weapons to Libya will continue to fuel this needless conflict.

The security vacuum created by the conflict in and around Tripoli continues to be ex-ploited by Da’esh in remote areas in the country’s southern and central regions.

Even more worrisome are the indications that the arsenal of weapons being delivered by foreign supporters to one side or the other is either falling into the hands of terrorist groups or being sold to them. 

Some extremist elements have sought to legitimise themselves by joining the battle. This is nothing short of a recipe for disaster, not only for the safety and security of Libyans themselves, but to Libya’s neighbours and international peace and security.

That there are two parallel oil companies, one in the east and the original one in the west, both of which keep on making efforts to sell oil, confuses the issues surrounding who can or cannot sell oil. There is a serious danger of ‘the weaponisation of oil’ in this conflict. 

There has been an unacceptable spike in enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions since the outset of hostilities. 

On July 17, elected House of Representatives member Siham Sergewa was violently abducted from her home in Benghazi by an unknown group with sympathies towards Haftar. This was a big PR mistake for Haftar personally, if nothing else. Sergewa must be immediately released and those responsible for her abduction must first be held accountable by Haftar to avoid any possible perception that Haftar may have approved of the kidnapping.

Salame and the UN continue to make the same erroneous conclusions about the Libyan situation. Put simply, their countless solutions over eight years to end the civil war have not and will never work. When will they learn?

What is needed is a pragmatic realisation of the true situation in Libya, not platitudes amounting to meaningless and useless words from the UN.

Simply put, the two sides, for reasons explained, are at an impasse that cannot be broken unless a third way is found. 

This can be done by searching for a consensus through a Libyan candidate that would be acceptable to both Haftar and Serraj. 

Rumours abound in Libya that such an acceptable third ‘candidate’ to all sides in the conflict is known. 

This kind of third way is being spoken of in Tripoli and Tobruk as well as London, Washington and Moscow.

Diplomatic etiquette and norms must be pushed to one side and all efforts must be initiated to back such a man or woman if indeed he or she exists with support among the bulk of the Libyan people… and, hopefully, there will be an end to the war, and peace may finally be restored with the tragic Libyan people.

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TIMES of MALTA