| The Special representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Bernardino Leon, during a press conference held today in Tripoli. Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Good afternoon. Thank you for being here today. As you know, this is my fourth visit to Libya as Special Representative of the secretary general. I was yesterday in tobruk and I had the opportunoihjnty to meet the speaker of HoR, Mr. Agila, and also several members of the HoR to discuss the situation in the country and the Ghadames dialogue.
I also had the opportunity to have some meetings here in Tripoli, both with members of the delegation of the group of parliamentarians who are not attending the gatherings in Tobruk, the so-called boycotters, last night.
I also had the opportunity to meet some representatives from Kikla and Gheryan to discuss the situation in Nafusa Mountain, and this morning I also had a meeting with the Mufti to brief him on the situation of this dialogue and the views of the United Nations and the international community regarding the Libyan crisis.
Obviously, the political dialogue and the political situation in the country has been a very important focus for these talks, although I would say at this stage, having seen what happened in the country in the last two weeks, the international community thinks that the most serious concern today is the situation on the ground, the situation in Benghazi, the situation in Nafusa Mountains, where the ceasefire that was called by members of the two delegations to the HoR has not been respected.
In Benghazi, we have been very clear always about the position of the international community, the possibilities to fight and defeat terrorism, which is a shared concern. In previous meetings we have had here, I have reiterated this point, but we believe this has to be done from the state, it is the state that has to be strong in fighting terrorism and with clear support from the international community. This should be the case. But the concern today is that the situation in Benghazi is going to enter in an even more concerning stage, in a fight street by street, with many civilians that could be affected. So, we again reiterate this call to ceasefire coming from the HoR supported by the international community.
In the western mountains, in Nafusa, the situation is also complicated. The ceasefire is not respected. Even today, there are reports about fighting in the mountains, especially in Kikla. And I could address this issue yesterday with the Speaker of HoR, Mr. Agila. He gave instructions, and he said he could agree, my understanding is that he gave instructions to the Libyan army to support and protect humanitarian assistance, which is extremely important these days in these areas.
It is very important to enhance once again the humanitarian concerns, the international community
and many Libyans. We have to create an atmosphere which is conducive for a political agreement.
All Libyans we meet everywhere agree that there is no military solution for this country. The only solution is dialogue, the only solution is political agreement. So supporting humanitarian assistance, giving through ceasefire the opportunity for this dialogue, for this political process to succeed is the only opportunity this country has. And I have to be very clear, all these actions are not conducive to this atmosphere. Same as it is very important that statements and actions from political personalities, from civil society personalities, from religious personalities is also supportive of this conducive atmosphere for this political agreement.
Regarding the political dialogue, we continue working with the different members of the two delegations. I had the opportunity, as I had said, to meet some of them. For the moment, I have no news to give you. We are not calling for the next round of talks. We have to continue working with the two delegations. I think most Libyans are telling us it is important to expedite these talks. But we still believe that we have to continue to work with two delegations, trying to lay bridges, try to get their positions closer in order to call the next round of talks.
In the meantime, the international community, the United Nations, will continue to work because we want to make very clear the support for the political process, and I think this is what the international community should do in these coming days, supporting very clearly the dialogue, supporting very clearly the people who are working for this dialogue to be successful. And also making very clear that the international community is not ready to accept people who don’t want to support this political process. People who still think that using force is the solution for this country.
The polarization that is worrying the international community is not the polarization between the people who are gathering in Tobruk, and the people in Tripoli and Misrata. It not the polarization of people who are in Zintan or in other areas of the country. The polarization concerning us is between moderate and hardliners. We need to make clear there are moderates in both camps and this is the people we want to support from the international community.
We will continue to work, of course, to support the ceasefire, in touch with different actors. I had planned to travel today to Zintan, but the mayor of the city won’t be there. So, we are postponing this visit until the mayor, Mr. Barouni, is back. We will also continue to work in contact with all the institutions, the political actors to promote this dialogue, also with the institutions that have to secure that Libya, despite this very serious crisis, is still a functioning state. So these institutions like the Central Bank, the oil industry, the Libyan investment authority, these are vital institutions for this country, vital institutions for the international community. It is very important they remain neutral. This is a guarantee and a service that has to be provided to all Libyans and this is also what we will try to secure and to guarantee in our contacts with these institutions.
Thank you very much. I will be glad to answer some of your questions.
(Question: Haftar has attacked Benghazi with the blessing of HoR in Tobruk, and in Zintan they have attacked Kikla, which is 60 kms away. All those actions are undermining dialogue. So what do you say about those actions? )
Leon: The situation in Benghazi, as I said before, it’s very serious and very concerning. Let me be very clear on the principles that should be recalled for the situation in Benghazi. First of all, according to what we hear this is an action intended to fight terrorism. And as I said before, terrorism is something the State and only the State should fight. So, if there is any militia involved, any irregular forces involved this is not going to reinforce the possibilities for this country to overcome the crisis. Because the principles, the decisions have to be the same for everyone. We are saying very clearly: all militias have to abandon the cities, have to allow, to give room and possibility for politicians to address this situation, this crisis.
I am not saying that Libya should not fight terrorists and terrorism, and I am not saying that there is no terrorist threat in Benghazi. There is a terrorist threat and this is a huge concern for the international community. But anywhere in the world where the terrorist fight is effective is when the target is specifically terrorist and terrorist groups. When this action uses an overwhelming force, when this action involves the possibility of civilians suffering and civilians being part of this, or even an action that is not isolating and clearly targeting terrorists, we don’t think this is going to be an effective way to deal with terrorism on the medium and long run.
Regarding what you said about HoR attacking Benghazi, let me insist in this point. I don’t think this is a question that has been debated at the HoR. I know there have been statements, but my information is that there has not been voting or statement agreed at the HoR on this issue. I can tell you that I have been talking to different members of the HoR who are very concerned about this situation. So I think we should be careful when we talk about this issue.
And I can tell you the same about the situation in Nafusa. It’s a very serious concern and very serious threat to the political process in the country. Let me once again reiterate the importance of this announcement by Mr. Agila after the conversation we had yesterday to support humanitarian assistance. It is very important to provide this humanitarian assistance. There are people suffering. His comment yesterday was that the army has to protect this humanitarian assistance because they have to protect all Libyans, and I completely agree. This is what we would like to see, a ceasefire that is respected by all, by the State, by all militias that are taking this country to an extremely difficult situation.
QUESTION: SRSG, Mr. Leon, you say this is the fourth visit, is there any timeframe, any time limit, to this process, or is it going to be open-ended process? Do you get the impression, some commentators getting the impression, that the UN, the international community, are really being used and abused by the two parties, while they carry on, as you said fighting has continued despite calls for ceasefire, parties continue to carry on their military activities, trying to reinforce their position, are you making any progress, at least on principles, on general grounds on general command grounds, are these becoming talks for the sake of talks?
LEON: First of all, timeframe, I don’t think the international community has to set a timeframe. It is the Libyans who have to decide what is the timeframe. If you ask my personal opinion, I think this country is running out of time. I think the danger for the country, with the escalation we are seeing in recent weeks, is that we are getting very close to the point of no return. So this is something that the Libyans have to sort out. Let me say that we are receiving hundreds, probably to be more accurate to say, thousands of messages from many Libyans, from all cities, from all sides, from all political views encouraging us to continue to work and telling us the same the country is running out of time. So I think the message from the Libyans is very clear. But let me insist it is up to the Libyan actors, the people dealing with political issues, the people on the ground who have to tell us what is their time frame. It is their decision. The international community cannot replace the Libyans.
Regarding the second question, I don’t think anyone is using the United Nations or, of course, abusing the United Nations. I don’t think so. I think our messages are very clear, our proposals are very clear. The people we support and people we don’t support is also something very clear. And I think in case there is any doubt in these kind of meetings and through any of your questions we will be ready always to clarify to make sure there is no doubt about the kind of processes and the kind of people we are trying to support.
On the third question, I was very clear when we started meeting in Ghadames that we were not aiming at a process or a dialogue for the sake of dialogue. People in Libya are expecting that there will be decisions, that there will be clear solutions for the crisis in the country. And this is our goal. As you know there has only been the meeting that took place in Tripoli to officially open the political process. But we are really at the very beginning of this political process.
I know that the country is running out of time I know that the people have expectations to see results as soon as possible. But the process is at the beginning and we should give some time for both delegations to work on their proposals if we want to see results.
QUESTION: What do you say about the outside intervention of countries such as Egypt which has been using its territory for planes to bomb Libyans and Emiratis who have detained people affiliated with Fajr Libya? We have not seen any statements released by the UN regarding such acts.
LEON: Well, I have no evidence of any of these actions you mentioned. So, we cannot work on the basis of comments or allegations not supported with evidence. So let me go beyond any concrete action that could be related to any specific country. Let me just state a general principle which is that Libyans should try to find solutions for their problems by themselves and that international interventions are not very helpful in this regard. We think that we should support Libyans in finding these solutions but that this purpose, this endeavor, would be better served if there was no intervention from foreign actors.
QUESTION: A lot of Libyans are asking themselves, will there be a time when the UN will say enough is enough, Libya is being ruled by the gun and we need to do something about that, in the sense of at the very least what has been proposed impose sanctions on militia heads across the country, those ruling in Libya, and when would that be?
LEON: when you are a national in any country you know that when you go to a court, represent a case you know at the same time you need to be patient, because usually this kind of legal matters take time. And it is the same, probably even more complicated. When we are talking about international legality, about international instruments, especially such delicate instruments as sanctions.
What I mean is that this is not something that is going to happen one day all of a sudden. This is a process, which is not going to start. It has already started. The United Nations machinery, with the support of member states, is already working, is already assessing the situation, not only the situation of what is going in the last days, the situation that this country has been suffering in the last 4-5 months. An these institutions, these bodies inside the United Nations, are working very seriously. It takes time. But they always work and they always deliver, so let’s leave them do their work. Let’s support them. Because this is our mandate to support their work. UNSMIL, our mission, is not directly involved, but of course it has to support this work. It is very important. Our main mandate is to support the political process but I am sure at the end of the day these bodies , the sanctions committee, the Security Council, will deliver, will decide on the people both using force and especially ones violating the ceasefire but the ones who use force, indiscriminate force especially force against civilians in the last months and will equally identify the people undermining the political process.
QUESTION: Is there a chance to involve other parties into this dialogue instead of HoR members such as the revolutionaries? Mufti believes you that you are taking the side of Haftar, and since you met with him, have you discussed this matter with him?
LEON: Of course, I think it is very important that members of civilian society, political actors, people who are not directly in the HoR support the political dialogue. This is an endavour for all the Libyans. We will only be successful if there is a huge support from the Libyan society, from all ranks of the Libyan society.
Regarding the second question, I had a meeting this morning, as I said, with the Mufti. I briefed him on the dialogue and he didn’t tell me anything, of any alleged cooperation with anyone. So I’m sorry to tell you that I didn’t hear anything about it. It is the first time I hear such possibility. As I said the purpose of the meeting to brief him on this dialogue, how things are going, what are our views on the general situation in the country, and we explained our initiative and this was all, this was the meeting this morning.
QUESTION: The HoR has acknowledged Dignity Operation of Hatar despite the fact that he has admitted committing massacres in Chad and he has violated the legitimacy of Tobruk and because of him the dialogue has been suspended, are there any procedures, actions that have been by the UN in this regard? Second question, why don’t you communicate with Omar LA hassi who is influeincing over 70 percent of the Libyans and in charge of the government of salvation.
LEON: First of all, let me reiterate what I said before, my information is that no statement officially coming from members of the HoR in a voting session has been agreed on this issue. This is the information I have. I may be wrong, but this what I heard yesterday in Tobruk when I posed the question.
Regarding any information has to do with sanctions and with any procedure this is, as I said before, this is something, and I am talking in general, and not about any specific case. In general, the UN bodies in charge of this question are working. They work very confidentially. So I don’t have any information on any concrete case. I know they are following the situation in the country, not only in the recent weeks but also in previous months. They are taking this work very seriously, addressing situations, as I said before, that has to do with the armed groups but also with the political process. But since this is an extremely confidential process. I don’t have any information regarding any specific case.
Regarding your last question, I have said many times that the United Nations does not recognize governments. This is not something the United Nations has to do or not to do. It is the member states, all the members of the international community that decide which governments they recognize and that they don’t recognize. To the best of my knowledge, there is no any member of the United Nations that has recognized the government you mentioned. My understanding is that all the members of the international community recognize the legitimacy of the HoR. Of course, they insist that this principle of legitimacy has to be completed with the principle of inclusion. And this is why the international community is supporting very strongly this political process, the Ghadames process, hoping to see results soon. But the situation at the moment is that there are no changes, no news in this recognition you mentioned and this is a very important reference for anyone working in the United Nations.