UN experts say political settlement in Libya ‘out of reach’

UN experts say “a political solution in Libya remains out of reach in the near future.”

The panel of experts said in the summary of a report to the Security Council obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press that despite UN efforts to overcome the stalemate “military dynamics in Libya and conflicting regional agendas show a lack of commitment to a peaceful solution.”

Libya plunged into chaos following a 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It is now split between rival governments in the east and the west, each backed by an array of militias.

In December, the United Nations said it was “intensively trying to establish the proper political, legislative and security conditions for elections to be held before the end of 2018.”

But the panel painted a grim picture of continuing disarray in the country, saying Libya’s stability is increasingly linked to regional stability, “notably due to the growing involvement of foreign armed groups from Sudan and Chad.”

It pointed to an attack in Sudan’s western Darfur region by the Sudanese Liberation Army faction led by Minni Minawi in May 2017 before returning to its base across the border in Libya and the “expanded territorial presence of foreign armed groups and their recent involvement in clashes near Tripoli,” Libya’s capital.

“Diversion of public funds, the lack of governance and inability to address Libya’s economy are spurring popular discontent and distrust towards Libya’s political elites,” the panel said. “Starting in 2014, Libyan armed groups, benefiting from political sponsorship, have participated in the widespread diversion of state funds, notably through fuel smuggling and letters of credit.”

The experts said cells of the Islamic State extremist group continue to operate in central and southern Libya despite the militant group being routed from its stronghold in Sirte in 2016 by militias loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

The panel also cited the continued deterioration of human rights from armed groups committing “arbitrary detentions, kidnappings and other severe violations,” including those associated with the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and the rival self-styled Libyan National Army based in the eastern city of Benghazi led by Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter.

In addition, “human trafficking is on the rise in Libya,” with the country’s west and south main hubs where Libyan and non-Libyan armed groups are earning “significant revenues,” the experts said.

They expressed concern at the possible use of state facilities and state funds by armed groups and traffickers “to enhance their control of migration routes.”

“International involvement in the migration issue has exacerbated competition between the armed groups,” they said.

The experts said arms from Libyan stockpiles and weapons acquired after 2011 continue to fall into the hands of Libyan and foreign armed groups, feeding “increasing insecurity.” Foreign fighters moving in and out of Libya are exploiting “the uncontrolled proliferation of arms” in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, and criminal networks also have taken advantage of the authorities’ inability to enforce import controls to illegally bring weapons into the country, the panel said.

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

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