UN envoy says from Geneva: Libyan rival military factions agree on “lasting ceasefire”

Ghassan Salame at a press conference in Geneva. [Photo: Social Media]
The UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame has said representatives of the country’s rival factions attending talks in Geneva agree in principle to turning a fragile truce into a lasting ceasefire, as he denounced ongoing violations of an arms embargo by both sides and their backers.

Addressing reporters in the Swiss city, Salame said on Tuesday his office had collected evidence of the continuing violations and referred the issue to the UN Security Council.

Salame said the meetings of the 5+5 military commission, which started on Monday, were crucial to ending the military escalation.

“Both sides have come to Geneva and we have started talks in an attempt to turn the truce into a more solid one, less often violated by either side,” Salame said.

He added that there is an agreement to convert the truce into a lasting ceasefire, so the principle has been adopted by both sides.

“There is a clear willingness and genuine will to sit together and start negotiating,” Salame said, adding that meetings were, for the time being, held in separate rooms.

The envoy said discussions would focus on which conditions would be necessary on the ground to implement the ceasefire and which role the UN or any other international organisation would play in this regard.

“It is, after all, a decision that needs to be taken by the Libyans themselves: what kind of monitors they want for the ceasefire,” Salame said.

Despite the commitments made in Berlin, Salame was critical of the ongoing breach of the embargo by both sides. He said the arms embargo imposed in 2011 has been violated incessantly since then.

“The Berlin conference called for a better respect of this resolution. What I told the Security Council is that this respect is not there, that we have evidence of new equipment but also new fighters, non-Libyan fighters joining the two camps”. He added.

“Mercenaries and weapons continue to enter Libya. I have asked the Security Council the swift adoption of a resolution that would endorse the decisions taken in Berlin and, in particular, to implement the sanctions against violations of the arms embargo.” Salame indicated.

Salame remarked that his office “has evidence of new non-Libyan fighters joining the two camps.”

“There are more than 20 million pieces of weapons in Libya and the country doesn’t need more,” he indicated.

Asked whether the meetings in Geneva would also address a blockade imposed by Haftar’s forces on Libya’s main oil terminals, Salame said the issue would be most likely discussed at a separate meeting in Cairo.

The blockade has severely disrupted oil production, with Libya’s output plummeting from 1.3 million barrels per day to as little as 72,000 barrels per day – eroding in the process the oil-rich country’s cash reserves.

“We have taken as the United Nations a very strong position for the non-involvement of oil issues in political disputes”. Salame said, adding that the issue may take active international support to be solved, hinting at the major foreign players backing Haftar’s manoeuvres.

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