United Nations, May 22 : The damage done to Libya will already take 'years to mend' but unless fighting around the capital Tripoli does not stop, the country risks 'descending into a civil war which could lead to the permanent division of the country'.
That was the blunt assessment of UN Special Representative to Libya, Ghassan Salamé, who also heads the UNSMIL Support Mission, briefing the Security Council on Tuesday, following weeks of intensifying conflict in and around the outskirts of Tripoli, instigated by the self-styled Libyan National Army forces of General Khalif Haftar who also leads a parallel administration based in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Mr Salamé said grimly, that he had spent two years hoping to avoid having to deliver such a bleak in-person briefing to the Council, noting there were already 460 dead – 29 civilians - since the offensive began in early April. More than 2,400 have been injured, and 75,000 forced from their homes, the majority civilians, with half of the displaced women and children.Violence began on the eve of an UN-backed National Conference planned to bring more than 150 representatives together from across the country, which had to be postponed.
“I am no Cassandra” he added, referencing the mythical Greek figure, who uttered prophesies which nobody believed, “but the violence on the outskirts of Tripoli is just the start of a long and bloody war…imperilling the security of Libya’s immediate neighbours and the wider Mediterranean”.Mr Salamé noted that in southern Libya, terrorist group Daesh, or ISIL, was flying its distinctive black flags, and reportedly had been responsible for four attacks, killing a total of 17, with more than 10 wounded, and eight others kidnapped, since Libya's militias turned their guns on each other this year, not the common extremist threat.
He bemoaned the flow of weapons back into the country noting “many countries” were providing arms to all sides. “Without a robust enforcement mechanism, the arms embargo into Libya will become a cynical joke. Some nations are fuelling this bloody conflict; the United Nations should put an end to it”, he added.Turning to the humanitarian needs he said health facilities were struggling to cope, with 11 ambulances “directly hit” by airstrikes, rockets and shelling. UNI