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Salame to Asharq Al-Awsat: UN Stands with the 'Silent Majority'

Salame to Asharq Al-Awsat: UN Stands with the 'Silent Majority'

Sunday, 6 October, 2019 - 07:00
Special Representative of UN Secretary General (SRSG) Ghassan Salame (AFP)

A cease-fire in Tripoli, Libya, should be implemented “as soon as possible” because Libyans are the only victims of this situation, according to Special Representative of UN Secretary-General (SRSG) Ghassan Salame.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Salame said there is a growing conviction among all international partners and countries concerned with Libya that a political solution is the only way to end the war and revive the political process again.

Salame also touched on the current situation saying there is now what we call “de facto party” which includes people who benefit from the current situation and strive to keep it this way.

He added that the presence of armed militias in Tripoli undermined the work of the government, wondering whether the current military operation undermined or increased the GNA’s influence.

The Special Representative also defended the UN Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) saying that the United Nations stands with the silent majority, the Libyan people, who are suffering from the continuing political dispute.

The United Nations is working with Libyan and international parties regarding the crisis, warning against turning Libya's skies into a proxy war between rival regional states, with the help of their allies at home.

Asked about the chances of success of an international conference for the crisis, Salame indicated there was a growing conviction among all countries concerned about Libya that the political solution is the only way to end the war and revive the political process.

So far, two rounds of fruitful talks have been held in Berlin, in addition to a ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Libya, he noted, adding that the cease-fire and political solution is up to the Libyans themselves.

However, he indicated that it is crucial to have an international umbrella that protects the success of the ceasefire and provides international cover for any future political agreement.

Salame reported that the international conference is being prepared mainly under the umbrella of Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the support of the United Nations. All countries concerned with the Libyan crisis will be invited to participate in this conference.

Regarding armed groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the members of the former Gaddafi regime, Salame stated it is up to the Libyans themselves, noting that UNSMIL does not exclude anyone in all its consultations.

Concerning the war in Tripoli, Salame admitted militias are a chronic problem in Libya, and since he began his mission, he has been working hard to protect the country from it. He reported that UNSMIL had already developed a set of solutions and suggestions to solve the most important causes of disagreement and division in Libya, including the presence of armed groups.

Asharq Al-Awsat asked Salame about the accusations of supporting the Government of National Accord (GNA), especially after his interview with French-newspaper Liberation, the SRSG asserted that the UN sides with the Libyan people.

He stressed that when the UN makes any suggestion or proposal that benefits Libyans and does not benefit one of the parties in Libya, they are immediately accused of bias to one side or another.

This will not deter UNSMIL from pursuing its efforts to bring stability, security, and tranquility to this overwhelmingly silent majority, he said referring to the people.

Some in western Libya believe that any new agreement is an attempt to circumvent the Skhirat agreement, however, Salame stated that everyone knows that the whole Libyan political scene has been trying to amend some of the articles of the agreement.

There is no harm in amending the agreement if it produces a breakthrough in the political landscape, but the Skhirat Agreement remains the primary reference for the country's political framework until it is replaced through parliamentary and presidential elections, noted the SRSG.

Salame asserted that the Libyan people have the right to decide their fate through the ballot box, which is the ultimate source of legitimacy.

Recently, Leader of Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar stressed he is open to a dialogue that is impossible in light of the presence of militias in Tripoli.

Salame indicated there is a predominant Libyan desire to unite the security institutions and the army and the UN have already expressed its support for the Cairo talks to unify the army.

They also supported the efforts made in Tripoli through the Interior Ministry to increase coordination with security institutions in the east, and efforts to strengthen the role of security services in all regions of Libya.

Head of GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj also welcomed the dialogue on several occasions, but he doesn’t want Haftar to be in the future political process.

Salame indicated that dialogue is essential to reach any agreement, especially that there are certain problems and reasonable solutions, and political issues must be raised calmly and logically. However, he indicated that commenting on the format of the dialogue between the Libyan parties is premature, as the priority now is to reach a ceasefire.

The Special Representative regretted that after Libya was just around the corner from a comprehensive political agreement, war broke out, which brought nothing but killing, destruction, and displacement, further dividing the country and deteriorating living and economic conditions.

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