Speaking to reporters outside the Security Council in New York on Wednesday night, UN chief António Guterres said there was still time for a “bloody battle for Tripoli” to be avoided, despite the continuing fighting in and around the Libyan capital.
The offensive directed towards the capital, and troops loyal to the internationally-recognized Government led by Faiez Serraj, began on Monday. UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric briefed reporters earlier in the day that clashes were “reportedly intensifying, with increased use of artillery and airstrikes”.
The self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) which controls much of eastern and southern Libya under the command of Khalifa Haftar, is attempting to advance into the capital, meeting resistance from pro-Government fighters.
Mr. Guterres said that following his mission to the Middle East last week, which included a three-day visit to Libya in support of the UN Mission UNSMIL and the efforts led by Prime Minister Serraj to forge a political consensus to end years of instability and division, he had left a meeting with Commander Haftar in Benghazi on Friday, with a “heavy heart”, and his concerns had been “until now…entirely confirmed.”
“But there was “still time to stop…still time for a ceasefire to take place – for a cessation of hostilities to take place and to avoid the worse which would be a dramatic, bloody battle for Tripoli.”
There was still time “to recognize there is no military solution”, he continued. “Only political solutions can apply to situations like the one in Libya”.
He reiterated his hope that the political process which was due to kickstart once more this coming weekend with a national conference on the way forward, could still resume, and earlier in the day, UN Special Representative for Libya and UNSMIL chief, Ghassan Salamé, met Mr. Serraj, trying to de-escalate the situation.
“I want to express my enormous admiration for the work that is courageously being done on the ground by my Special Representative”, said Mr. Guterres. “On my side, and using our good offices, we will do everything to support his efforts.”
“At the same time, I am particularly worried with migrants and refugees that were caught in this terrible situation”, he added, saying he was glad that UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, had managed to evacuate detention camps around the capital. “But there are terrible concerns in relation to, not only the lives of the Libyans, but also the migrants and refugees in the city and other foreigners in the city and one reason more for us to believe that we absolutely need to stop this fighting”, he told correspondents in New York.
Asked about his view on what the Security Council should do at this point, he said: “It is very clear for me that we need to restart a serious political dialogue and a serious political negotiation, but it is obvious that that cannot take place without fully stopping hostilities.”