UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame expressed optimism about the trajectory of the political negotiations in the six-year-old conflict, seeing a deal on a unity government within reach.
"I am quite confident we are close to a consensus," Mr Salame, the UN secretary general’s special representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya, told the Security Council on Thursday.
Following two meetings in Tunis last month, the UN envoy said “much progress was made, a few remaining points are still to be agreed”.
If an agreement on a unity government is reached, the next step would be convening a national conference in February to agree a new constitution and prepare elections.
“I am pleased to report that over the last two months, the Action Plan has made significant headway,” Mr Salame told the Security Council members. Striking an optimistic tone, he said the UN mission is “well into preparations for the National Conference, Al Multaqa Al Watani [the national gathering], which is to take place in February 2018” and could be hosted in Libya.
Ahead of the briefing, Mr Salame met Mohamed Taher Siala, the minister of foreign affairs in Libya's Government of National Accord, and Angelino Alfano, the Italian foreign minister.
Mr Salame warned of the dire economic situation, the increase in poverty rates and the risk of mistaking Libya “for a homogeneous nation” when it “is actually a country divided at an atomic level”.
“Reconstituting the Libyan national polity is a must; without it effective institutions cannot form, and rebuilding a state can only be a Sisyphean endeavour,” he added.
The UN envoy spoke of a new momentum, with efforts to increase security and the rule of law, especially when it relates to migrants and refugees held without due process. Building on the political momentum, Mr Salame also anticipated that the United Nations will increase its presence across Libya as it continues preparatory work for the February conference.