The United Nations and its diplomatic partners seeking a resolution to the Libyan crisis today urged the Security Council to release assets frozen under United Nations sanctions to the country’s transitional authorities to help them set up a government in the North African nation.
“We have decided to start a process to unfreeze the frozen Libyan assets in an expedited manner,” members of the Libya Contact Group said in their final communiqué after a meeting in Istanbul, Turkey. “In that regard, participants urged the UN Security Council to pass the resolution currently under discussion,” they said.
The Contact Group urged Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi and his “inner circle” to turn themselves in immediately to face justice to prevent further bloodshed and destruction of property. Media reports indicate that forces supporting the National Transitional Council (NTC) have taken control of most of the country.
Members of the Group – the UN, European Union, NATO, the League of Arab States, Organization of the Islamic Cooperation, Gulf Cooperation Council, and, by invitation, the African Union – declared that the NTC was, currently, the sole representative of the Libya people.
“While expressing satisfaction for the ever ever-widening international recognition of the NTC, they underlined the need to empower the NTC with the legal, political and financial means necessary to form an interim government of Libya,” members of the Group said in their communiqué.
They stressed that the reconciliation process in Libya should be based on the principles of inclusiveness and avoidance of retribution and vengeance and welcomed NTC’s commitment “to “win hearts and minds of the entire Libyan people and respect for human rights.”
The group also agreed that the UN should lead all international efforts aimed at helping Libya in the post-conflict period.
Earlier, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on post-conflict planning for Libya, Ian Martin, told the Group that delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially medical aid, is the most urgent priority, adding that the world body and its partners are finalizing a 30-day assistance plan.
He said the that UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental organization (NGO) partners were striving to ensure quick delivery of medical assistance to the wounded and other vulnerable groups, as well as food aid and water to those in need.
He also pointed out that the NTC had shown commitment to moving quickly towards democratic legitimacy through the drafting of a constitution and early elections.
“We stand ready to bring the extensive experience of the United Nations has developed from so many post-conflict contexts to the unique challenge of a country which lacks living memory of an election, let alone electoral institutions and political parties,” said Mr. Martin.
He stressed that any UN role would be in support of national efforts. “The purpose of initial deployment [of UN support] would be to engage with the Libyan authorities and actors regarding their needs and wishes, in order to design longer-term support where requested,” said Mr. Martin.
He stressed the need for effective coordination of international assistance for Libya, in response to a common understanding of the country’s priorities.
“The international community will do hard-pressed transitional authorities no favour if it presents itself in Tripoli as multiple interlocutors or assessment missions demanding their scarce time, or seeks their participation in multiple forums outside Libya, when their own country demands their leadership,” said Mr. Martin.
He pointed out that the UN, the World Bank and European Union have an agreed process for tripartite post-conflict assessment and will be discussing with the NTC when and how the that process can best be applied in Libya.
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, urged the people of Libya, as well as international art and antiquities traders, to protect the country’s cultural heritage, warning that invaluable cultural property could be damaged or stolen in times of social upheaval.
She stressed that the looting, theft and illicit trafficking of cultural property would contravene UNESCO’s Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.
“The heritage of a nation is essential to the ability of its citizens to preserve their identity and self-esteem, to profit from their diversity and their history and build themselves a better future,” said Ms. Bokova.
She warned that buying stolen artefacts or their fragments encouraged the looting of cultural property. “It is therefore crucial that the international antiquities market be particularly wary of objects from Libya in the present circumstances.”
She offered UNESCO’s assistance in assessing reports of damage to some of Libya’s five World Heritage sites, adding that the agency would also prepare plans to safeguard the sites.
The five heritage sites in Libya are the Archaeological Site of Cyrene; Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna; Archaeological Site of Sabratha; Old Town of Ghadamès; and the Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus.