UN calls for Libya ceasefire monitors

·2-min read

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is recommending that international monitors be deployed to Libya to observe the October ceasefire agreement from a base in the strategic city of Sirte, gateway to the country's major oil fields and export terminals.

The UN chief said in Monday's interim report to the Security Council on proposed ceasefire monitoring arrangements that an advance team should be sent to Libya's capital Tripoli as a first step to "provide the foundations for a scalable United Nations ceasefire monitoring mechanism based in Sirte".

Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi and split the country between a UN-supported government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in the country's east, each side backed by an array of local militias as well as regional and foreign powers.

In April 2019, east-based commander Khalifa Hifter and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive to capture Tripoli.

His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support of the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

The October ceasefire called for the withdrawal of all armed forces from conflict lines and the departure within three months of all mercenaries and foreign fighters.

Guterres gave few details of the monitoring mechanism but said the Joint Military Commission, with five representatives from each of the rival sides, "has requested unarmed, non-uniformed individual international monitors to be deployed under the auspices of the United Nations".

They would work alongside joint monitoring teams from the rival Tripoli and eastern governments "for specific monitoring and verification tasks," he said.

"The Libyan parties have also conveyed their firm position that no deployment of foreign forces of any kind, including United Nations uniformed personnel, should occur on Libyan territory," the secretary-general said.

According to the military commission's outline, "the United Nations would be expected to provide a nimble and scalable team of impartial international monitors to carry out monitoring" in the Sirte area, Guterres said.

The secretary-general reiterated the UN's commitment to assisting and supporting the Joint Military Commission in making the ceasefire agreement operational, warning that current delays risk failure to meet the timeline.

He pointed to military activities by forces backing both sides, as well as military cargo flights, impeding the agreement's implementation.

"A lasting ceasefire in Libya needs above all else the buy-in of the parties and of ordinary Libyans," Guterres said.