A Ramadan month of anxiety

Friday, 2020-05-08 12:59:37
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Smoke rises during a fight between members of the Libyan internationally recognised government forces and Eastern forces in Ain Zara, Tripoli, Libya May 5, 2019. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) recently convened an online meeting to discuss disturbing developments in Libya, which is currently engulfed in a civil war. Warfare has continued to increase amid the widespread COVID-19 pandemic, triggering concerns about the risk of a serious humanitarian and security crisis in the North African country.

Despite constant appeals from the UN Secretary-General and the international community for a ceasefire, the security and humanitarian situation in Libya remains complicated. A report of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) shows that more than 100 civilians were killed or injured in conflicts in Libya in the first quarter of 2020, an increase of 45% over the same period last year. The nation, which has been divided by the coexistence of two governments, became even more chaotic after General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), announced the abolition of the political agreement with the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA). The deal stipulated truce compliance aiming to facilitate the formation of a united government, towards putting an end to the political divisions since the wave of rebellion to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

One of the reasons for the prolonged war in Libya is the deep factional division, as well as outside intervention. The GNA operating in the capital city of Tripoli has been supported by Turkey, Qatar and Italy. Meanwhile, LNA leader Haftar is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) together with political support from the United States, Russia and France. After months of launching campaigns, the LNA forces took control of many areas, while the GNA controlled only a small part of Libya’s territory. Tensions escalated after General Haftar claimed to have a “popular mandate” to govern the country. However, the international community, including the supposedly pro-LNA countries, responded cautiously to this unilateral claim and recommended that all issues in Libya should be resolved through political dialogue.

The import of weapons into Libya is said to be one of the reasons that ignite new fighting in the North African nation. During an international peace conference on Libya in Germany in January, world leaders agreed to maintain an arms embargo against the conflicting parties in Libya. But in fact, illegal weapons have still entered the country in secret. In an effort to cut off the source of weapons that is adding fire to the fighting in Libya, the European Union (EU) declared that it was ready to deploy a naval force to monitor the implementation of the arms embargo against Libya. EU countries agreed to equip warships, aircraft and satellites for campaigns to stop the flow of weapons from penetrating into the country across the Mediterranean coast.

In the context of COVID-19 threatening to make the humanitarian situation worse, the UNSC member countries emphasised their concern about the risks from attacks on civilians and civilian bases, including the poor healthcare infrastructure in Libya. The international community called on stakeholders in Libya to stop fighting, comply with a humanitarian armistice, ensure the right to adequate aid access, and work towards a political solution on the basis of respecting Libya’s independence and sovereignty, which should be led and owned by the Libyan people. The parties’ early resumption of negotiations through political, military and economic channels, and on the basis of the UNSC’s Resolution 2510, is a comprehensive and long-term solution.

Libyan people are experiencing the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with a lot of anxiety, due to conflicts as well as the pandemic. After nearly 10 years engulfed in division and violence, since the “Arab Spring” in 2011, outside interference and violations of the arms embargo have again “sparked” violence in the North African country. A ceasefire and the resumption of negotiations remains the only way for Libya to open the door to peace.