Geneva, Switzerland – The United Nations envoy to Libya 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 decried ongoing violations of an arms embargo by both sides and their backers.
Addressing reporters in the Swiss city, Ghassan Salame said on Tuesday his office had collected evidence of the ongoing violations and referred the issue to the UN Security Council.
Salame said the meetings of the so-called 5+5 military commission, which started on Monday, were crucial in ending the military escalation.
Known as the “Libya Joint Military Commission,” the 10-member body is comprised of five delegates from the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which is based in Tripoli and led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, and five appointed by eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
In April last year, Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to seize the capital from the GNA. Clashes have continued, despite a shaky truce brokered by Turkey and Russia on January 12 and an international gathering in Germany a week later that concluded with world powers signing a 55-point declaration to end foreign interference and work towards a permanent ceasefire.
“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.
“There is an agreement to convert the truce into a lasting ceasefire, so the principle has been adopted by both sides,” he said.
“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.
“Who and how should monitor the ceasefire is for the Libyans to decide,” Salame said.
The joint military commission is the result of the high-level meeting held in Berlin that was attended by Libya’s warring sides and international powers, including some that back the rival factions.
The GNA is supported by Turkey, while Haftar has the backing of Egypt as well as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), among others.
Despite the commitments made in Berlin, Salame was critical of the ongoing breach of the embargo by both sides.
“Neither of the two parties is respecting the arms embargo,” he said. “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 said 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 said.
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 1.3m barrels per day to as little as 72,000 barrels per day – eroding in the process the oil-rich country’s cash reserves.
“This is not sustainable,” Salame said. “We have taken a strong position for the non-involvement of oil issues with the political problem.”
But the issue may take active international support to be solved, added the envoy, hinting at the major foreign players backing Haftar’s manoeuvres.