Address of SRSG for Libya Ghassan Salamé at the Meeting of Arab Foreign Ministers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – 12 April 2018
Thank you, Your Excellency, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and thank you for inviting me to this meeting.
I thank the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, I salute the ministers in this room, and wish convey to you the greetings of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I apologize for speaking about a country that is dear to me in the presence of its Minister… but I ask the indulgence to speak about a country that is dear to me as it is to him.
If I were pessimistic, I would say that, in Libya, there are still about 20 million piece of weapons in the hands of the people; I would say that two countries have recently captured two vessels transporting new arms to Libya that needs no more ammunition, explosives or rockets. However, if I were optimistic, I would say that during the last month, the third month of this year, the number of civilians killed during clashes in Libya did not exceed five with only twelve wounded, a figure we have not seen in Libya for years and years.
If I were optimistic, I would add that I came here today from Tripoli, where I have been living for a month and a half, and where UNSMIL has returned to work along with the Libyans from inside Libya.
So, there are positive indicators and less positive indicators. With regard to the Action Plan adopted by the United Nations last September, I can briefly say that it is moving on the right course, but certainly not as quickly as we hoped, as some brothers in Libya are creative in placing obstacles in the implementation path of the this Plan.
On the Constitution, a constitutional text was agreed upon on 29 July last year by the elected Constitution Drafting Assembly. However, this text had faced a number of cases before the judiciary: at the courts of First Instance then the courts of Appeal and finally at the Supreme Court. On 14 February, this text was freed and a call for a referendum on it is now made possible. However, any constitutional referendum needs a law. We are working in every possible way with the House of Representatives in Tobruk and the High Council of the State to swiftly agree on the referendum on this Constitution. UNSMIL has exerted all efforts in its possession to support the High National Electoral Commission in Libya and has set up a budget for preparations needed to expedite carrying out this referendum as soon as the two Councils reach an agreement on a law for this referendum.
I could say the same for elections. If everything goes peacefully, and this is what I hope, we will start before the end of this month with a series of municipal elections across Libya, noting that the term of 75 municipal councils out of 104 cities in Libya expires this year. We will try to work, in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government, to proceed with these municipal elections in all of these cities starting from Zawiya on the 28th of this month.
Parliamentary elections are equally necessary. All polls in Libya indicate that the Libyans want parliamentary elections and we have helped the government of Libya to carry out a new voter registration. Many were surprised to see that more than one million Libyans have registered their names, and this increased the proportion of Libyans who have the right to vote from 31% last December to about 55% today, a good figure that gives credibility to the elections when it takes place. However, there are certainly other conditions for credible elections, including a law that is acceptable by all parties, and of course, the acceptance by the main actors on the ground in Libya of the outcome of the elections prior to holding it to avoid repeating what happened in 2014. These conditions also include, of course, an acceptable security situation for which we also aspire. We, at UNSMIL, have started a broad dialogue with the various armed formations in Libya in an attempt to explore the conditions and means for their transition or return to the civilian life. This is important if elections are to be held without interference of these armed formations. Definitely, it is not as easy as some may think, but the good thing is that the various leaders of these formations are willing to engage with UNSMIL in this dialogue. We are in the process of developing a strategy to restore monopoly of arms solely to the state through the gradual return of the members of these formations to civilian life or their integration into the Libyan military and security institutions. I hope we can present this strategy to the Security Council in mid-May.
Finally, ten days ago, we have initiated a broad consultation process for all Libyans and I am pleased to inform you that the Libyans have shown widespread enthusiasm for this consultative action. We have held a number of these local consultations in Benghazi, Gharyan and Zouara, and two days ago in Abu Salim and other cities. We will hold more of these consultations in about thirty Libyan cities. My Libyan brothers are genuinely enthusiastic to contribute to reshaping their future with us. These local forums will culminate, after the end of the Holy Month, in a comprehensive National Conference in which the Libyans will determine how they wish their country to be in the coming years.
Of course, negative news persists including abduction, arbitrary detention, and infringement on properties or lives of civilians across the Libyan territory. However, positive things are also taking place and these positive things are not miraculous. They take place because there is a number of bona fide Libyans who want these good things to take place; they take place because UNSMIL is working its best to achieve this. They are also made possible because of the support you all have given to the Action Plan that we are proceeding upon. This support that I would like to thank you for at the end of my remarks.