UN chief hopeful for Libya, after Quartet meeting in Tunis
Secretary-General António Guterres said he is hopeful for a solution to the eight-year long conflict in Libya, after a high-level meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, on Saturday with officials from the Arab League, the European Union and the African Union -- the group known as the 'Libya Quartet.'
"If is there is a word that defines what I think and feel about Libya today that word is hope. This is a moment of hope for Libya," said the UN Secretary-General in a press conference after the meeting. "I have hope because I believe that it is possible to have now a Libyan-led political process aiming at the solution of the Libyan problems."
The meeting in Tunis included Federica Mogherini, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ahmad Abulgheit, Secretary-General of the Arab League, Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission; and Ghassan Salamé, UN Special Representative in Libya.
Announcing that the meeting had led to "intensified forms of cooperation among our four organizations to work more and more together in support of a Libyan-led political process," the UN chief said he hoped "the Libyan leaders will understand the enormous responsibility that they have, that they will be able to come together in solutions for the future of Libya, to the benefit of the Libyan people and to the benefit of the whole region as we all know the impact of Libya in the Sahel and many other parts of Africa, even in Europe".
He mentioned three key steps for a successful outcome: the Libyan National Conference to take place in two weeks; the upcoming conference of peace and reconciliation to take place in Addis Ababa, headquarters of the African Union; elections "at the right moment for the country to re-establish a normal political life."
The UN Secretary-General acknowledged that there are difficulties, but stressed that a window of opportunity has been created by the recent historic meeting in Abu Dhabi between Libya’s Prime Minister, Faiez Serraj, and a key rival military leader, the Commander of the Libyan National Army, Khalifa Haftar.
Citing the recent peace deals between Ethiopia and Eritrea, in South Sudan, in the Central African Republic and elsewhere, Mr. Guterres said there is a "wind of hope," not only in Libya.
"People are starting to show their leaders that they want peace." he stated. "It’s not for us to define, because we’re not Libyans, so the Libyans themselves define the precise definition of the solution, but we see signs that the [divide in Libya], for the first time has the possibility to be overcome."
In a tweet, UN Special Representative Salamé called on the Libyan people “not to waste the opportunity” of the recommendations adopted during this high-level meeting and “not to close this window to build a unified, civil, sovereign, capable, fair state.”
When he briefed the UN Security Council last week from Tripoli, he said that the UN mission there, UNSMIL, was working to both “prevent recent developments and tensions on the ground from escalating”, and “pivot to stability and a political compact” which would end the country’s crisis.
For most of the period since the 2011 overthrow of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the Mediterranean nation has been contested by various armed factions, leading to a breakdown of the economy, infrastructure and security across the country.
The Quartet meeting and press conference coincided with the kick-off in Libya of municipal elections in nine municipalities across the country.