Libya on brink of civil war, permanent division: UN envoy
May 22, 2019 | 1:41 PM
by Agencies
Photo: Supplied

Tunis: The UN's top envoy for Libya has warned that the Arab country was on the brink of an all out civil war that could lead to its permanent division.

Ghassan Salame, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative told the Security Council in a briefing, "Libya is on the verge of descending into a civil war, which could lead to the permanent division of the country. The damage already done will take years to mend, and that's only if the war is ended now."

Salame's statement was made as forces loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli and Gen Khalifa Haftar continue to battle in and around the capital. Hostilities began after Haftar launched an offensive to take Tripoli on 4 April.

"This is the report whose delivery I have spent the nearly last two years trying to avoid. Forty-eight days into the attack on Tripoli by Gen Haftar's forces, there has already been too much death and destruction," Salame said.

The consequences and the risks of the conflict are already painfully clear, especially for the Libyan people, with over 460 dead, 29 of them civilians; over 2,400 injured, the majority of them civilians; over 75,000 people forced from their homes, all of them civilians. Over half of those displaced are women and children, said Salame.

Humanitarian workers estimate that over 100,000 men, women and children remain trapped in immediate front-line areas, with over 400,000 more in areas directly impacted by the clashes, he said.

While the condition of migrants and refugees in Libya were already dire prior to the conflict, they have since gone from bad to worse, he said, adding that nearly 3,400 refugees and migrants are trapped in detention centres exposed to, or in close proximity to the fighting.

UN humanitarian agencies have been working around the clock to transfer the most vulnerable from the conflict-affected areas to safer locations, he said.

He noted that the offensive on Tripoli came on the eve of the a national conference in the Libyan city of Ghadames, regarded as a key event in Libya's political process.

"To see those who had enthusiastically accepted our invitation to Ghadames suddenly take up arms against each other to attack the capital, or to defend it, has thrown me into the deepest level of sadness for the opportunity lost and for a hope killed exactly 10 days before its realisation," said Salame.

Salame added that the attack on Tripoli also imperilled opportunities created from previous talks held between Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and Haftar.

The attack on Tripoli imperils the security of Libya's immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean region, he also warned.

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