TRIPOLI, NEW YORK: The UN has condemned clashes between two armed groups in a residential suburb of the Libyan capital and the use of heavy weapons.
UNSMIL, the world body’s support mission in Libya, in a statement late Friday expressed “great concern” over the fighting in the eastern suburb of Tajoura.
“Heavy weapons” were used in a “civilian-populated neighborhood,” in clashes that caused “damage to private properties and put civilians in harm’s way,” it said.
UNSMIL said it “reminds all parties of their obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law” and called for urgent reforms to boost security.
The clashes broke out late Thursday between two militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), but the cause remains unclear.
At least three people were killed and several wounded in the two camps, according to unconfirmed local reports. Residents said the clashes ended at midday on Friday.
Russia and China meanwhile blocked the official release of a report by UN experts on Libya that accused its warring parties and their international backers — including Russia — of violating a UN arms embargo on the conflict-wracked country, UN diplomats said on Friday.
Germany’s deputy UN ambassador, Günter Sautter, said he brought the issue to the Security Council after the two countries blocked the report’s release by the committee monitoring sanctions on Libya, which Germany heads.
I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.
Günter Sautter, Deputy UN ambassador
When asked what Germany could do if Russia and China blocked the report’s release again, Sautter said: “Let me assure you I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.”
“Many delegations have asked for the publication of the panel of experts’ interim report,” he said. “This would create much needed transparency. It would contribute to naming and shaming those who continue to blatantly violate the arms embargo in spite of agreements that have been made.”
But diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because Friday’s council consultations were closed, said Russia and close ally China again blocked the report’s publication.
Sautter said before the meeting, when asked what Germany could do if Russia and China blocked the report’s release again: “Let me assure you I will continue to use every tool at hand in order to make sure that we have the necessary transparency.”
The report, seen by The Associated Press earlier this month, said the arms embargo was being violated by Libya’s UN-supported government in the west, which is backed by Turkey and Qatar, and by rival east-based forces under commander Khalifa Haftar, backed by Russia. The panel said the embargo remains “totally ineffective.”
The experts said 11 companies also violated the arms embargo, including the Wagner Group, a private Russian security company that the panel said in May provided between 800 and 1,200 mercenaries to Haftar.
In addition, the experts said the warring parties and their international backers failed to inspect aircraft or vessels if they have reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains military weapons and ammunition, as required by a 2015 Security Council resolution.
In the years after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has sunk further into turmoil and is now divided between two rival administrations based in the country’s east and west, with an array of fighters and militias backed by various foreign powers allied with each side.
The Security Council adopted a resolution on Sept. 15 demanding that all countries enforce the widely violated UN arms embargo on Libya and withdraw all mercenaries from the North African nation. It also extended the UN political mission in Libya and called for political talks and a cease-fire in the war, which the UN has been pursuing.
One glaring gap for the UN has been the failure to replace its former top envoy, Ghassan Salame, who resigned in March, mainly as the result of a US demand to split his job in two. The resolution adopted last week did split it, putting a special envoy in charge of the UN mission to focus on mediating with Libyan and international parties to end the conflict and providing for a coordinator to be in charge of day-to-day operations.
But finding a replacement acceptable to all Security Council diplomats has proven exceedingly difficult.
One possibility is the UN’s current top Mideast envoy, Nikolay Mladenov, a former Bulgarian foreign minister, UN diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private. But the diplomats said the three African members of the council — South Arica, Niger and Tunisia — oppose him because they want an African in the job.
Germany’s Sautter said the Security Council has agreed that there will be a special envoy “and we need an agreement urgently on who that is going to be.”