UN Warns of Wide-Ranging Military Battle in Libya

Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler, warned of dangerous escalation across Libya emanating from the deteriorating security situation in Tripoli and events in Misrata and Benghazi.

This comes as the Prime Minister of the international-supported Government of National Accord Fayiz al-Sarraj began his visit to Italy. He partook in the Euro-Moroccan meeting to reach an agreement on a deal to block Libya’s migrant smugglers.

“I call for all parties to put Libya and the unity of Libya ahead of their own narrow interests. Violence, hate speech, and mutilation of corpses in Libya is completely unacceptable. Calm must be restored immediately, democratic bodies and ideals must be respected and freedom of speech must be protected,” said Kobler in his statement.

He urged the Libyan institutions to commit to advancing the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and swiftly implement the security arrangements in Tripoli which provide for the withdrawal of armed groups from the capital and the deployment of army and police.

“Do not let the agenda be driven by violence on the ground and extremism,” he added.

The Special Representative warned that the mobilization of forces and hostile acts and rhetoric present a real risk that will lead to widespread military confrontation.

“The responsibility, however, lies first and foremost with the Libyans themselves to end this escalating violence,” stressed Kobler, adding that: “All political and security stakeholders in a position to influence their constituencies should act now.”

Prior to his departure to Rome, Sarraj commented on the protests demanding the removal of militias from the capital and the creation of a unified police and security force, headed by Khalifa Haftar.

He said that that freedom of speech did not mean people could foster strife and division.

During a televised speech, Sarraj added that freedom of expression is integral and shooting on protestors is rejected, but he stressed this did not mean inciting hatred between cities was acceptable.

“17 February Revolution is the base for a new Libya,” he stated.

In an implicit attack against Haftar’s vow to “liberate” Tripoli and demand for all militias to leave the capital, Sarraj said that Libya could not return to being under the rule of one man. He also insisted that the armed forces should be unified and under civilian command.

Minister of Defense Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi said that the military institution can’t be reduced to one person and they can’t allow the return to military ruling. He added that the ministry refuses to be led by a former defeated war captive who led the country to chaos and turmoil.

Sarraj began his visit to Rome on Monday along with the accompanying delegation and he informed AKI news agency that they will request several amendments to the deal signed with the government to “remove any ambiguity that clarify its execution.”

Sarraj met with Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni who announced on Twitter that they discussed stability in Libya, reviving bilateral relations and cooperation in fighting illegal immigration.

Sarraj participated in the meeting of internal ministers from seven EU member states, Switzerland and Tunisia to set a plan to manage the migration flow through the Mediterranean.

The newly-established group included: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Libya, Malta, Slovenia, Switzerland and Tunisia who will work together to address challenges posed by increased migration flows along the central Mediterranean route.

The GNA demanded several equipment and vehicles worth €800 million to aid the boarder control unit, but a number of the tools required are halted due to UN’s ban on transporting weapons to Libya.

Italy is determined to halt migrants from entering its shores through Libya, and migrant deaths at sea, set to outstrip last year’s record total of 180,000.

Italian government promised to donate to Tripoli €200 million in aid from the EU to house refugees in camps on Libyan territories.

But, Libya will need the assistance of the UN agencies after they stated that the country was not safe for refugees.

Meanwhile, back in Libya, Sarraj’s vice Ahmed Maiteeq met with UN Senior Advisor on security matters Paolo Serra security arrangements in Libya as well as demining Sirte and humanitarian aids from non-governmental organizations.

Khalid Mahmoud

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