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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 March 2021

Tunisia suggests UN peacekeeping force to maintain Libya ceasefire

In a new proposal, international observers would oversee the departure of foreign fighters

A youth climbs the rubble of a destroyed building in Tawergha, near the port city Misrata, on December 12, 2020. AFP
A youth climbs the rubble of a destroyed building in Tawergha, near the port city Misrata, on December 12, 2020. AFP

Tunisia, the current president of the UN Security Council, called on Monday for an urgent resolution to send international monitors to support Libya’s brittle ceasefire.

“We hope that it will be adopted as soon as possible” because “there is a momentum, yet it’s a little bit fragile,” said Tarek Ladeb, Tunisia’s ambassador to the UN, referring to the negotiations between Libyan parties and the UN mission there.

At the end of last year, UN chief Antonio Guterres proposed using international monitors in Libya amid hopes that foreign fighters would soon leave and the country could turn the page on a decade of conflict.

The warring sides reached a ceasefire on October 23 in Geneva under which all foreign forces are to leave within three months – that is, by January 23. The international observers would monitor their departure.

Mr Guterres asked for a group that would include civilians and retired soldiers from regional groups such as the African Union, EU and Arab League.

He called in particular for all nations to respect the UN arms embargo on Libya, which has been breached.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army in the country’s east, reached the truce after fighting with the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord reached stalemate. The Tripoli government had strong support from Turkey.

In early December, UN envoy Stephanie Williams estimated that 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries remained in the country, calling the situation a “shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty”.

While October’s ceasefire has largely held, Gen Haftar last month vowed to “drive out the occupier by faith, will and weapons,” leading Turkey to warn of retaliation to any attack by the “war criminal”.

Under Mr Guterres’ proposal, monitors would initially operate in a triangular section of Libya around Sirte, the birthplace of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi –, whose removal in 2011 set off a decade of turmoil.

The observers would expand to other parts of the country until they can be replaced by a unified Libyan national force.

Tunisia, a non-permanent member of the Security Council, assumed its rotating presidency in early January. Its work programme does not at this stage include a meeting on Libya until the end of the month.

Updated: January 5, 2021 08:44 PM

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