The Guardian: UN Representative in Libya has Two Months to Secure Ceasefire


On Sunday, the acting UN special envoy for Libya, Stephanie Williams, said the Libyan people are increasingly scared that their future is being taken out of their hands by external actors, and that the risk of a regional war is rising.

In a statement, the British newspaper “The Guardian” reported that Williams, who is currently visiting London, is working hard to secure a ceasefire and demilitarised zone, as well as the departure of all foreign mercenaries according to a timetable to be agreed on before she quits her post in October.

Williams noted “the Libyan people are exhausted and scared in equal measure. They are tired of war, and want peace, but they fear this is not in their hands now. They want a solution and a ceasefire. The alternative to a ceasefire and an inclusive political solution is essentially the destruction of their country.”

“With so many external actors with their own agendas, the risk of miscalculation and a regional confrontation is high,” she warned.

Williams’ departure without a named successor would only underline the diplomatic chaos, as countries rival each other to influence the outcome of a civil war that is now as much about their military and economic stakes in Libya, as the political balance between Libyans themselves.

Williams is working specifically to create a demilitarised zone in Libya’s central region, with a separation of forces around the coastal city of Sirte, seen as the front line in the battle between the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

The UN is urging the key actors in the country not to rely on external forces to settle their differences, but knows that both sides are using a ceasefire to strengthen their military positions, including by importing weapons in breach of a UN embargo.

Since the start of the year, the arrival of Turkish-funded mercenaries has decisively pushed Haftar back. The UN senses that Turkey now wants the reward of a naval base in Misrata and an air base in Al-Watiya, indicating that Turkey intends to stay and cement its power.

Egypt has warned that any attempt by the Turkish-backed GNA to capture the coastal town of Sirte would be a red line for Cairo leading to an Egyptian military response. Sirte, seen as the gateway to oilfields that are under the control of Haftar, is more than 1,000 kilometres from the Egyptian border, so the threat is treated with both scepticism as well as concern.

Libyan oil revenue is largely used by the central bank to pay the salaries of 2.9 million public sector workers, or to subsidise fuel.

The UN official also said that “there is a civil war and then there is a proxy war going on in Libya. It will be very difficult to end the first if the second is still going on.”

“Nothing substantive has been done to stop the mercenaries and weapons coming into the country. We not only have mercenaries on the ground, and not just drones, but warplanes as well,” said Williams.