Statement by Ambassador Günter Sautter in the KAS Expert Dialogue on the Peace Process in Libya, January 26

26.01.2021 - Speech

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Dear friends,

I want to touch upon three questions: Why is Libya so important? What have we achieved in Libya? What remains to be done, and how can we achieve it?

Why is Libya so important?

Libya may be the one conflict that, as United Nations, we may eventually be able to come to grips with. After a decade of bloodshed, this would be more than a ray of hope for the entire region. It would also send a strong message that the United Nations are able to get their act together, even in a highly complex conflict involving major powers and mainly external spoilers.

This is why German diplomacy has invested heavily in contributing to the work on a peaceful solution for Libya. In a particularly polarized conflict at the gates of Europe, our persistent engagement helped set in motion to work on a political solution. Let me mention three elements:

On January 2020, almost exactly a year ago, we pulled off the Berlin Conference in support of UN peace efforts, bringing all international players and supporters of the two parties to the conflict to the table. In Berlin, they all committed to working for and not against a Libyan owned and Libyan led peaceful settlement. Several weeks later, we initiated Security Council Resolution 2510 to endorse the outcome of the Berlin Conference, making it binding international law. The ceasefire that has now been established and the internal Libyan political process with the prospect of elections at the end of the year give people hope for a better future.

Ever since, we have insisted in many high level follow up-meetings and in the established International Follow Up Committee that commitments taken in Berlin be honored. As chairperson of the Libya Sanctions Committee monitoring the Libya arms embargo, I have been able to contribute by urging all sides to honor the commitments they made.

What have we achieved in Libya?

One year after the Berlin Conference on Libya, a lot needs still to be done, but we started a structured process. The process is and stays a marathon. As Heiko Maas put it recently: “Despite many positive developments in recent months, we still face a long and difficult path.” Yet, the Berlin process with its different tracks under the auspices of the United Nations is established and working on all levels to build a framework for talks, negotiations, agreements and outcomes. And we do see still a lot of work ahead but also some progress – at the political level, at the military level and at the economic level.

Very briefly:

Politically: Progress on the security track finally generated momentum for the resumption of UNSMIL-facilitated intra-Libyan political talks. After the agreement of the ceasefire on 23 October, Acting Special Representative Williams convened the first virtual session of the LPDF.  

Shortly after, the first in person meetings of the LPDF took place in Tunis and adopted a comprehensive political roadmap on 15 November, which concludes with the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 December 2021.

By now, the LPDF agreed upon a structure of a new All-Libyan government. A positive example is the decision of the new Advisory Committee of the LPDF regarding the procedure of the selection mechanism of a unified executive authority.

UNSMIL announced just last week the commencement of a one-week period for the submission of candidacies for the positions of a three- member Presidency Council and of Prime Minister, closing this Thursday. The LPDF will be reconvened by UNSMIL for the voting process from 1 to 5 February in Geneva. 

Looking at the 5+5 talks at the military level, a lot of groundwork and patience played out with a signed ceasefire on October 23. Both sides are undertaking confidence building measures. The ceasefire agreement opened an important window of opportunity for peace in Libya. A specific and ambitious deadline was agreed for the withdrawal of military forces from the front lines and the complete withdrawal of foreign fighters, mercenaries and trainers.

The Joint Military Commission has established permanent headquarters in Sirte and formed subcommittees to work on individual implementation items. So far, so good.

However, the 90 days for the withdrawal have passed and there are no signs of implementation so far. The opening of the important coastal road between Sirte and Misrata is stalled. This is why we need to strengthen our efforts to support the implementation - with the full backing of the international community. The Security Council will have to play its role.

The Libyan Parties requested the assistance of the UN for the implementation of a Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism in the ceasefire agreement. Now it is time to offer this support through UNSMIL. UNSMIL provided a report to the Council regarding the possible mechanism, it is now time for the Security Council to act and provide the appropriate assistance.

Some progress has also been made at the economic level: Above all, the Oil blockade was lifted and Oil production has almost returned to pre-blockade level and there are concrete steps to reunify the institutions.

However, there is still no settlement on the handling of oil revenues, one of the main causes of the conflict. The dialogue in Geneva and the continued work of the Libyan Economic Expert Commission are important steps toward reaching a sustainable agreement on future distribution mechanisms, which are essential as the basis for a lasting resolution of the conflict.

What remains to be done, and how can we achieve it?

First of all, the ceasefire must be firmly implemented. This implies, in particular, the immediate and complete withdrawal of all foreign troops, fighters and mercenaries. This is overdue. Foreign Military and mercenaries are still present in Libya - 90 days after the ceasefire agreement was concluded. This must change. Now. In order for this to work, effective monitoring will be crucial. UNSMIL will have to play a key role in order to lead a Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism. We stand ready to support this important work.

Secondly, the international community needs to give unequivocal political backing and endorsement to the ceasefire agreement and the political process. Commitments taken in Berlin must be honored. It is now important to do all that we can as international community in order to promote the tremendous success that Stephanie Williams has achieved with Libyan partners. The new Special Envoy Jan Kubis must also have the full support of all actors involved. This implies, amongst other things, that the international community must be focused on possible spoilers. This also needs to be a firm message from the Security Council, which must be ready to take measures against those who stand in the way of peace.

Germany will continue to invest heavily in a political solution for Libya – together with our partners in the European Union and with the Secretary General of the United Nations, and in burden sharing with our transatlantic partners. We stand ready to finish the job started together in Berlin.

We are delighted that António Guterres will be available for a second term as UN Secretary-General. In the past four years, he demonstrated great skills and foresight in steering the United Nations through difficult times and contributed significantly to bolstering peace and security. The German Federal Government holds António Guterres in high esteem and appreciates the good and trustful cooperation with him regarding major issues such as climate change and health as well as efforts to promote peace in Libya.

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