UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommends that international monitors be deployed to Libya under a UN umbrella to follow the October ceasefire agreement from a base in the strategic northern city of Sirte, the gateway to the country’s major oil fields and export terminals.
The UN chief’s statements emerged the same day that forces loyal to Putist general Khalifa Haftar were attacking a military base of the country’s legitimate government for national agreement (GNA) in southwestern Sabha province.
Ahmed el-Atayibi, the sixth director general of the brigade, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the Haftar militia attacked them at their base in Sabha but that the attack was countered. “Some small arms and two Libyan youths who were tricked into fighting among their ranks were arrested,” said el-Atayibi.
El-Atayibi pointed out that there were also Sudanese Janjaweed militias among Haftar’s forces, that the attackers came from central Jufra, 365 kilometers (226.8 miles) to the northeast. Meanwhile, Abdulhadi Dirah, a spokesman for the Libyan army’s Sirte-Jufra Joint Operations Unit, told AA on Tuesday that the Haftar militia had also violated the ceasefire with attacks on army units west of Sirte province, although no deaths were reported.
The UN chief said in an interim report to the Security Council on proposed ceasefire monitoring arrangements circulating on Monday that an advance team would be sent to the Libyan capital Tripoli as a first step to “create the basis for scalable UN ceasefire monitoring.” mechanism based in Sirte. ”
The oil-rich Libya was thrown into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew the long-serving dictator Moammar Gadhafi and divided the country between a UN-backed government in Tripoli and rival authorities based in the country to the east.
In April 2019, East-based Haftar and his forces, with the support of Egypt, France, Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched an offensive to try to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey strengthened its military support for the UN-backed government.
The fighting sides reached a ceasefire on October 23 in Geneva, according to which all foreign forces must leave within three months – that is, on January 23. The international observers would monitor their departure.
In early December, UN Special Envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams estimated that 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries remained in the country in a “shocking violation of Libyan sovereignty.”
Guterres gave few details on the monitoring mechanism but said the Joint Military Commission, with five representatives from each of the competing sides, “has called for unarmed, non-uniform individual international monitors to be deployed under the auspices of the United Nations.” They would work with joint surveillance teams from rival Tripoli and Eastern governments “for specific surveillance and verification tasks,” he said.
“The Libyan parties have also stated their firm position that no deployment of foreign forces of any kind, including UN uniformed personnel, may take place on Libyan territory,” the secretary general said. However, the Commission welcomed offers of potential support for the monitoring mechanism from regional organizations including the African Union, the European Union and the Arab League under the auspices of the United Nations.
According to the military commission’s concept, “the UN would be expected to provide a flexible and scalable team of impartial international monitors to carry out surveillance” in the Sirte area, Guterres said.
In the Commission’s view, he said, they would “initially monitor and report compliance along the coast with the removal of military forces and mercenaries, the deployment of the joint police force, the clearing of explosive remnants of wars, traps and mines.”
“As soon as conditions allow, they would extend their surveillance work to the Abu Grein-Bin Jawad-Sawknah triangle and possibly beyond,” Guterres said.
He pointed to military activities as well as military cargo flights, which hindered the implementation of the agreement.
“A lasting ceasefire in Libya needs, above all, the purchase of parties and ordinary Libyans,” he said.
He called for the implementation of the UN’s generally broken arms embargo.
Guterres said the deployment of monitors under the umbrella of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to the Sirte area would require funding and personnel from UN member states.
Tunisia’s UN Ambassador Tarek Ladeb, the current president of the Council, said on Monday that he hopes a resolution on the ceasefire monitoring mechanism will be adopted before Council members discuss UNSMIL on January 28.
“We hope it will be adopted as soon as possible” because “there is a momentum, but it is still a bit fragile,” Ladeb said, referring to the negotiations between Libyan parties and the UN mission there.