Parties to the Libyan conflict remain sharply divided on how to start peace talks, with the Government adamant on a truce, including the cessation of an international bombing campaign, and the opposition demanding that Muammar al-Qadhafi and his family first relinquish power, a senior United Nations official told the Security Council today.
“The Secretary-General and his Special Envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, the African Union and other stakeholders have been making every effort to narrow these differences and to begin a credible negotiating process,” said B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, in a briefing to the Security Council on the situation in Libya.
He said Mr. Khatib has over the past month focused on two key issues in his mediation efforts, including ensuring that the various initiatives on Libya by UN Member States and regional organizations are coordinated and that the Government and the opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) are receiving identical messages from the international community.
Mr. Khatib has also strived to narrow the gap between the two parties’ positions in an effort to kick-start indirect talks. He presented his proposals to the Government in the Libyan capital, Tripoli on 15 May and to the TNC representatives in Doha, Qatar on 24 May.
The proposals “revolved around the need to end hostilities, agree on a transitional arrangement, provide safe humanitarian access and fully implement Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973,” Mr. Pascoe told the Council.
“With both parties, the Special Envoy had extensive discussions on a general framework for negotiations and their perspectives on how to meet the legitimate demands of the Libyan people in establishing constitutional and democratic governance.”
Despite the wide rift in their stands, both the Government and TNC reiterated their commitment to work with Mr. Khatib, who will return to Libya this week to continue his efforts to narrow the differences.
Mr. Pascoe told the Council that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had met with the Libyan Foreign Minister, Abdelati al-Obeidi, on the sidelines of the AU summit in Addis Ababa and reaffirmed that his Special Envoy was ready to conduct indirect talks with both sides.
The Secretary-General also called for increased humanitarian assistance for Libya when he attended the summit of the Group of 8 (G8) industrialized economies in Deauville, France, last week.
A UN team led by the Humanitarian Coordinator Panos Moumtzis returned to Tripoli on Sunday and would remain there for 10 days. Mr. Pascoe said, adding that the protection of civilians in areas of hostilities remains a fundamental concern.
“All parties to the conflict must take measures to spare civilians from the effect of the hostilities,” he said.
Mr. Pascoe told the Council that the UN was making progress on contingency planning for post-conflict peacebuilding in Libya, noting that the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser Ian Martin had initiated a pre-assessment process focusing on six issues – political, security apparatus, rule of law and human rights, economic recovery, public administration and physical infrastructure.
“Of course, the plan will be guided by the principle that the fate of Libya is to be decided by the Libyan people, and that their representatives must determine what assistance they would like from the international community,” said Mr. Pascoe.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Mr. Moumtzis had told reporters in Tripoli it will only be a matter of weeks before food stocks are depleted to critical levels if the fighting continues.
The Libyan Government has indicated that food and medicine stocks are being used up and cannot be replenished because of the UN-imposed sanctions, according to Mr. Moumtzis.
“For some food commodities it’s a matter of weeks, others perhaps a matter of months. What is clear is that this cannot continue for a very long time,” he said.
Officials from several UN agencies will travel to the besieged city of Misrata by ship today from opposition-held Benghazi to assess how the humanitarian needs of the internally displaced persons are being met, according to OCHA. The UN team will also evacuate the wounded and stranded migrants, deliver up to 700 tons of food and blankets, kitchen sets and medical supplies.