Transcript of the Secretary-General’s remarks at Press Conference - Tripoli, Libya - 4 April 2019
Thank you very much for your presence. This visit has been conceived as a visit of solidarity with the Libyan people – The Libyan people that have suffered too much and deserve to live in a normal country with normal political institutions, with peace, security and prosperity.
The UN has no agenda and no interests in relation to Libya but one: the welfare of the Libyan people, the peace in the country, and the possibility to live in a normal democracy and to take profit of the enormous wealth of the country to benefit its citizens.
And that is why we believe that a political solution for Libya needs to be a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political solution. It is not through foreign intervention that we are going to solve the problems of any country and so it’s important that that principle also applies to Libya.
And that was the reason why we have conceived the idea, in close consultation with Libyans all over the country, in town halls that were made all over the country during more than a year, that there should be a Libyan National Conference – Libyan-led and Libyan-owned inside Libyan territory to be able to discuss the future of Libya, the political evolution of the country, to normalize and stabilize the situation in Libya. And the UN is totally committed to the organization of this Libyan National Conference.
When I was coming to Libya, I was surprised with a number of military movements and a number of public statements that, of course, created an enormous concern.
I want to make a very strong appeal: an appeal for all military movements to stop, an appeal for containment, calm, de-escalation, both military and political and verbal de-escalation, and the recognition that, in the meeting I had today with the President of the Council, we share the recognition that there is no military solution for any problem in the world, and there is no military solution for the problems in Libya. The solution must be political, and it is essential that a political solution is very strong through dialogue.
I believe it is essential, the resumption of dialogue, and I myself as Secretary-General of the United Nations, I am ready to assume the initiative that might be necessary for that to be possible if the conditions allowing for it are met.
I want also to say that I visited today a detention centre for refugees and migrants and I was very moved and shocked by the level of suffering and especially by the level of despair that I found. This is, of course, not only a responsibility for Libya, it’s a responsibility for the whole of the international community. Obviously, in the present circumstances that we are living, it would be very difficult to argue that disembarkation in Libya is disembarkation in a safety situation. My appeal is for the international community to understand the need for international refugee law to be fully respected, and the need to address the migration problem in a way that is compatible with the defence of the interests of the State but also the human rights of the migrants.
I am at your disposal for any questions.
Q: You will visit Benghazi tomorrow and you will meet with Haftar [LNA Commander]; what are you going to say to him?
Secretary-General: I never say in public what I am supposed to say the next day in private. He will listen to me first-hand, not from any news agency. I am sorry. Obviously, there is a clear message that I made public and that message was made just a few minutes ago. I think it is very important that Libya recognizes, and everybody recognizes in Libya, the need for a solution to be political to be based in dialogue, and it is clear for me that we absolutely need to avoid the drama of what would be a major confrontation, namely a major confrontation in Tripoli.
It is very important that both the military movements and statements made by everybody have a de-escalation and have a logic allowing for calm to be re-established and for fear to disappear. Obviously, there will be very important things to discuss but that you’ll allow me to keep for the meeting tomorrow.
Q: During your visits today to the President of the Presidency Council Fayez Serraj and the President of the High Council of State Khaled Mishri, have you sensed a genuine will to find a final solution for the political problems in Libya, especially in the lead up to the National Conference organized by the UN. Is there any UN plan to exercise pressure on the Libyan parties to expedite the elections process?
SG: I saw in every of my interlocutors a strong support to the National Conference and we believe that it is the National Conference, it is the Libyans themselves, that should define the order of the different elections and the adequate timing for them. As I said, we have no UN agenda, our agenda is the Libyan people and the Libyan interest. It is our belief that Libya needs the unification of its different institutions and needs an electoral process that will allow for both parliamentarian and presidential elections to take place, again with the order and with the timing that the National Conference will hopefully be able to advocate.
Q: Recent movements of General Haftar [LNA Commander] and his announcement today in a recorded statement the war to enter Tripoli. This escalation comes days before the National Conference. Do you have - as international community, as UN, as Security Council - strong statements, actions to stop this war and if the escalation continues, does this mean the UN National Conference has failed?
SG: As I said very clearly, our business is not escalation – it’s de-escalation. I strongly hope that we witness a de-escalation, both military and verbal, allowing for the recognition that Libya needs a political solution, not a military one.
Q: Is there a possibility to postpone the National Conference in light of the recent political and military movements in Tripoli?
SG: What we want is exactly to make sure that those movements end, that a situation of calm is re-established because we also believe that that will be a very important element for the National Conference to be successful. It is difficult to have a National Conference in an environment of global confrontation, so it is very important to de-escalate and to have a situation of restraint and of calm.
Q: Have you communicated with the parties behind the military movements in southern Tripoli and have you received promises to end these movements and the military and verbal escalations? If, god forbid, the escalation intensified, would this hinder the holding of the National Conference?
SG: We have not yet finished our mission and I hope that, when finishing our mission tomorrow, we will be able to have a clear picture about the situation, and eventually, and if possible, to take an initiative in relation to dialogue which is in our interest to do, if we manage to have an agreement on that, but it is exactly because we believe that it is important to re-establish an environment that is calm for the National Conference to be successful. So obviously we can have a National Conference in all kinds of circumstances, but for a conference to be successful, we need to be in an environment in which people are ready to talk to each other trying to find solutions and not in an environment of confrontation that makes it very difficult to have the minimum consensus or the minimum agreement on a common future.