Libyan Unity Government Chief Says He Is Ready To Step Down

Fayez al-Sarraj (R), Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), meets with Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (L) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 24, 2020, while clad in masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

 

The head of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord said Wednesday he planned to step down within six weeks as part of efforts to broker a peace agreement.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Fayez al-Sarraj’s GNA has battled against a rival administration in eastern Libya led by strongman Khalifa Haftar, whose offensive against the regime in Tripoli recently ground to a halt after more than a year of deadly conflict.

Both sides have since met for peace talks in Morocco after last month announcing a surprise ceasefire and pledging national elections.

Sarraj said during a brief televised address on Wednesday evening that he was willing to leave his post in favour of a new executive determined by the talks.

“I announce to all my sincere wish to cede my functions to the next administration before the end of October at the latest,” he said.

The talks had outlined the process for determining a new Presidential Council and the appointment of a new head of government who would take office “peacefully”, Sarraj added.

 

 

He welcomed the “preliminary and promising recommendations” agreed to during the Morocco dialogue.

The Morocco summit, dubbed the “Libyan Dialogue”, has brought together five members of the Tripoli-based GNA and five from the rival parliament headquartered in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Talks have focused on appointments to the top of the country’s key institutions, with the naming of the heads of Libya’s central bank, its National Oil Corporation and the armed forces the main points of dispute.

Morocco also hosted talks in 2015 that led to the creation of the GNA.

AFP

Libya Records 1,080 COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours

Moderna's COVID-19 Vaccine Set For Final Trial Stage After 'Promising' Results
In this file photo taken on May 18, 2020, a syringe is pictured on an illustration representation of COVID-19.

 

Libya on Monday reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest tally for a single day since the conflict-ravaged country announced its first cases in late March.

“Of the 4,291 tests performed on Sunday, 1,080 were positive,” said the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), a Tripoli-based government agency.

The figure brings the total number of Covid-19 cases in the North African country to 18,834, including 16,376 who required hospitalisation, 2,162 patients who recovered and 296 deaths.

The NCDC urged people in areas where the virus is spreading rapidly to avoid travel unless it is essential.

Tripoli and its suburbs, home to more than one-third of Libya’s population, accounted for more than half of the new cases for the third week in a row.

On Sunday, the NCDC launched a campaign to raise awareness about health protocols, including the wearing of masks which is compulsory in public.

It called on Tripoli residents to be more vigilant and to respect such measures given the “rapidly worsening epidemiological situation”.

Libya, ravaged by a complex web of conflicts since the ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, has seen Covid-19 cases surge, weighing on already stretched health services.

At the end of August, the World Health Organization voiced alarm over the uptick in infections.

“Compounding the situation, Libya’s health care system has been badly disrupted by years of conflict,” the WHO said.

“Given the acute shortages of tests and laboratory capacity, the real number of (Covid-19) cases is likely to be much higher.”

AFP

Libya Reports Highest COVID-19 Cases For Single Day

Libyans go on with their lives in the capital Tripoli on March 10, 2020. According to Libyan authorities, not a single case of coronavirus so far has been recorded in the country which faces Italy across the Mediterranean. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP.

 

Libya on Monday reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus infections, the highest tally for a single day since the conflict-ravaged country announced its first cases in late March.

“Of the 4,291 tests performed on Sunday, 1,080 were positive,” said the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), a Tripoli-based government agency.

The figure brings the total number of Covid-19 cases in the North African country to 18,834, including 16,376 who required hospitalisation, 2,162 patients who recovered and 296 deaths.

The NCDC urged people in areas where the virus is spreading rapidly to avoid travel unless it is essential.

Tripoli and its suburbs, home to more than one-third of Libya’s population, accounted for more than half of the new cases for the third week in a row.

On Sunday, the NCDC launched a campaign to raise awareness about health protocols, including the wearing of masks which is compulsory in public.

It called on Tripoli residents to be more vigilant and to respect such measures given the “rapidly worsening epidemiological situation”.

Libya, ravaged by a complex web of conflicts since the ouster of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, has seen Covid-19 cases surge, weighing on already stretched health services.

At the end of August, the World Health Organization voiced alarm over the uptick in infections.

“Compounding the situation, Libya’s health care system has been badly disrupted by years of conflict,” the WHO said.

“Given the acute shortages of tests and laboratory capacity, the real number of (Covid-19) cases is likely to be much higher.”

AFP

UN In Libya Urges Probe After Violence At Protest

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN mission to Libya on Monday urged the Government of National Accord (GNA) to conduct an “immediate and thorough investigation” after violence at a protest in Tripoli a day earlier.

Hundreds gathered in the capital on Sunday evening to protest deteriorating living conditions and denounce corruption in the war-torn country, before security personnel fired into the air to disperse them, witnesses said.

“UNSMIL calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the excessive use of force by pro-GNA security personnel in Tripoli yesterday which resulted in the injury of a number of protesters,” the UN mission said in a statement, without specifying how many people were wounded.

Videos and photographs circulating on social media showed men in military attire aiming their guns towards protesters in one of the capital’s streets.

Ayman al-Wafi, a young man in his twenties who attended the protest, told AFP that demonstrators had left Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square after “security forces started firing in the air”.

Angered by chronic water, power, and petrol shortages in a country with Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, the mostly young people had marched through the city centre chanting slogans including “No to corruption!”

Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha called those responsible for the violence “outlaws who infiltrated the security forces” supervising the protest.

The interior ministry on Sunday evening said in a statement that the men “do not belong to the security forces” and would be arrested.

Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The country is plagued by water shortages and power blackouts that snuff out air-conditioners in the searing summer heat.

The situation has been compounded by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has spread in the country despite social distancing measures.

Considering “the continuing immiseration of the Libyan people and the ever-present threat of renewed conflict, it is past time for Libyan leaders to put aside their differences and engage in a fully inclusive political dialogue,” the UN mission said.

The protest came just two days after the country’s warring rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections.

AFP

Thousands Of Migrants Dying On Trek Across Africa – UN

File photo: Illegal migrants of different African nationalities arrive at a naval base in the capital Tripoli on April 22, 2018, after they were rescued off the coast of Zlitan from two inflatable boats.  MAHMUD TURKIA / AFP

 

 

 

Thousands of migrants have died after suffering “extreme” abuse while crossing Africa, according to a UN report on Wednesday that estimated 72 people perish each month on the continent’s routes.

There has been considerable focus on the thousands lost at sea while trying to cross from Africa to Europe, but a new report found that routes from West and East Africa up towards the Mediterranean can be equally perilous.

Entitled “On this journey, no one cares if you live or die”, the report published jointly by the UN refugee agency and the Danish Refugee Council’s Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) details horrific realities many face along the way.

Most migrants making such journeys experience or witness “unspeakable brutality and inhumanity” by smugglers, traffickers, militias and sometimes state actors, the UNHCR said.

In 2018 and 2019 alone, at least 1,750 people died, corresponding to an average of 72 a month or more than two deaths each day, “making it one of the most deadly routes for refugees and migrants in the world,” the report found.

“For too long, the harrowing abuses experienced by refugees and migrants along these overland routes have remained largely invisible,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in the statement.

The report, he said, documents “killings and widespread violence of the most brutal nature, perpetrated against desperate people fleeing war, violence and persecution.”

Nearly a third of those who die along these overland routes tried to cross the Sahara desert. Others perished in the south of war-ravaged Libya, while another deadly route crosses conflict-ridden Central African Republic and Mali.

– ‘Appalling conditions’ –

Those who survive are often left severely traumatised.

This is particularly true for the many who pass through Libya, where random killings, torture, forced labour and beatings are widespread, the report found.

Tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, often sub-Saharan African and Asian migrants hoping to make it across the Mediterranean, have been stranded in chaos-wracked Libya, now a key route for illicit migration to Europe.

 

migrants
Refugees stand at a makeshift camp before being evicted by French police, in Aubervilliers, near Paris, on July 29, 2020. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

 

And many of those who try to cross the Mediterranean are stopped and turned back by the Libyan coastguard.

More than 6,200 refugees were forced to disembark in Libya so far this year alone, the report said, stressing that many are then detained in “appalling conditions”.

Women and girls, but also men and boys, face a high risk of rape and other sexual abuse along the various routes, in particular at checkpoints, in border areas and during desert crossings, the report found.

Smugglers were the main perpetrators in North and East Africa, while in West Africa police and security forces were held responsible for a quarter of the reported sexual assaults.

Around a third of those who reported witnessing or surviving sexual violence said it had occurred in more than one location.

“Strong leadership and concerted action are needed by states in the region, with support from the international community, to end these cruelties, protect the victims and prosecute the criminals responsible,” Grandi said.

AFP

Pope Condemns ‘Hell’ Of Migrant Detention Camps In Libya

This photo taken and released on April 13, 2020, by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis delivering his message during a private Angelus prayer live broadcast from the library of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican on Easter Monday, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP.

 

Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the “hellish” migrant detention camps in Libya on the seventh anniversary of his trip to Lampedusa, where many of those fleeing the country for Europe by sea land.

“The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And those people came only with hope of crossing the sea,” he said during a mass at his residence at the Vatican.

In July 2013, the newly elected Pope Francis chose the tiny Mediterranean island for his first trip outside of Rome, where he denounced the “globalisation of indifference” towards migrants.

“I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that island…,” he said.

“A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone through to get there.

“There were interpreters present. One person was telling me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief,” he said.

Francis later found out the translator had “given me the ‘distilled’ version.

“This is what is happening today with Libya: they are giving us a ‘distilled version’,” he said.

Francis regularly expresses solidarity with migrants who cross the Mediterranean and mourns those who lose their lives in the attempt.

He has repeatedly slammed the refusal of richer nations to welcome the refugees.

AFP

Civilians Among Over 100 Victims Of Libya Mines – UN

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on September 5, 2018, Palestinian school children raise the victory gesture over a UN flag during a protest at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, financed by US aid, in the Arroub refugee camp near Hebron in the occupied West Bank. – The United Nations said on June 18, 2020, that it was resuming resettlement travel for refugees, which was suspended in March due to the coronavirus crisis, delaying departures for some 10,000 refugees. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

 

Mines have killed or wounded more than 100 people, including many civilians, south of Libya’s capital following deadly combat between rival forces, the UN said Sunday.

“Mines and improvised explosive devices (planted) in or near homes have caused more than 100 victims,” including civilians and mine disposal experts, UNSMIL, the UN mission in Libya, said in a statement.

It did not give a breakdown of killed or wounded.

The toll was for casualties since early June, it said following a meeting in Rome between interim UN envoy to Libya Stephanie Williams and Government of National Accord head Fayez al-Sarraj.

Earlier this month, the Tripoli-based GNA recognised by the UN regained full control of the capital and its suburbs after more than a year of fighting off an offensive by eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Haftar’s forces have been accused by the GNA, the UN and Human Rights Watch (HRW) of laying mines in residential southern suburbs of the capital.

HRW said earlier this month that antipersonnel mines discovered in May were “of Soviet and Russian origin”.

At the Rome meeting, Williams also expressed concern over reports claiming that “mercenaries of various nationalities” had been deployed in Libyan oil installations.

On Friday, the country’s National Oil Corporation said Russian and other foreign mercenaries had entered the key Al-Sharara oil field the previous day.

Al-Sharara is under the control of forces loyal to Haftar, who is backed by Russia.

Williams said the presence of mercenaries there “threatens” to transform Libya’s so-called oil crescent region into a “battlefield”.

Plunged into chaos by the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed its longtime leader Moamer Kadhafi, oil-rich Libya has two rival administrations.

Haftar’s forces, which are also backed by Egypt and the UAE, launched an assault in April 2019 to wrest control of the capital Tripoli from the GNA.

Haftar’s fighters withdrew from the southern outskirts of Tripoli and the entire west of the country earlier this month after a string of battlefield defeats to the Turkish-backed GNA.

On Saturday, Sarraj also held talks in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during which he stressed that a solution to the Libyan conflict cannot be military, the GNA said.

AFP

Italy’s Foreign Minister Pays Quick Trip To Libya

Fayez al-Sarraj (R), Prime Minister of Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), meets with Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio (L) in the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 24, 2020, while clad in masks due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by – / AFP)

 

Italy’s foreign minister made a lightening trip to Libya on Wednesday amid a flaring conflict between a UN-recognised government in the west and eastern-based forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Luigi Di Maio was due to meet the head of Tripoli’s Government of National Accord Fayez al-Sarraj, as well as the interior minister and his foreign affairs counterpart, Italian agencies Agi and Ansa said.

Rome considers Libya “a priority… our most important issue, which concerns our national security,” according to an unnamed ministry source, cited by the Messaggero daily.

“We can’t afford a partition of the country. That is why we went first to Ankara, a (diplomatic) channel we’ve always kept open,” the source said, referring to Di Maio’s trip to Turkey on June 19.

He last visited Libya in January.

During his Wednesday visit Di Maio is set to examine an amended “memorandum” of cooperation between the two countries over migration, the Repubblica said.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and later killed longt-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The Arab League on Tuesday called for the withdrawal of foreign forces in Libya and urged talks on ending the conflict in the north African country.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Crisis Sinks Global Economy In 2020, Collapsing GDP 4.9% – IMF

The Turkish-backed GNA has recently made major military gains against Haftar’s forces, who have sought to regain control over the west in an abortive attempt to seize Tripoli.

Egypt, which supports Haftar, has warned that advances by Turkey-backed forces on the strategic Libyan city of Sirte could prompt an Egyptian military intervention.

The GNA denounced Cairo’s statements as a “declaration of war”.

Besides Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia back Haftar’s forces.

AFP

Pope Francis Calls For World To Push For End To Libya Violence

Pope Francis leaves at the end of a Holy Mass on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, on June 14, 2020 at St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican, as the city-state eases its lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Pope Francis on Sunday urged international bodies as well as political and military leaders to stop the violence in Libya and to also end the plight of migrants, refugees and others trapped there.

Speaking from a window at his Vatican residence on St Peter’s Square, the pope told the faithful he included his concerns in his prayers over recent days.

“I am following the dramatic situation in Libya with great apprehension,” he said.

“I urge international bodies and those who have political and military responsibilities to recommence with conviction and resolve the search for a path towards an end to the violence, leading to peace, stability and unity in the country.”

The pope also said he prayed for “the thousands of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in Libya”.

Alluding apparently to the coronavirus pandemic also hitting Libya, he said “the health situation has aggravated the already precarious conditions in which they find themselves, making them more vulnerable to forms of exploitation and violence.”

He added “there is cruelty”, urging the international community to take “their plight to heart” and find ways and means “to provide them with the protection they need, a dignified condition and a future of hope.”

READ ALSO: Second Wave Fears As China Reports More New Infections

The oil-rich North African nation has been mired in chaos and violence since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.

The UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) controls the west, including the capital Tripoli, while military strongman Khalifa Haftar holds the east and some of the far-flung oases and oilfields that dot the south.

War and division are now weakening Libya’s fight against the novel coronavirus, with the government struggling to deal with an outbreak deep in the desert south.

AFP

EU To Launch New Mission On Libya Arms Embargo Enforcement

 

The EU will launch its new naval mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya by the end of the month, after member states agreed its terms on Thursday.

Diplomatic sources told AFP that ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved the mission, dubbed Operation Irini after the Greek word for peace, after clearing last-minute objections.

Greece has agreed to be the landing point for any migrants rescued in the course of the mission, though its primary purpose is to enforce the embargo.

An effective arms embargo is seen as crucial to stabilising Libya, where the UN-recognised Tripoli government is under attack from the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the country’s south and east.

The new mission replaces Operation Sophia, set up in 2015 to fight people-smuggling across the Mediterranean at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis.

What to do with any migrants picked up during Irini’s operations was the last major sticking point, with Italy earlier this week insisting it would not receive them.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Forcing Parents To Skip Kids’ Vaccinations – UNICEF

EU naval vessels, provided and crewed by member state navies, will operate in the eastern Mediterranean with the authority to board ships suspected of delivering arms, a diplomatic source said.

Irini will start when Sophia ends on March 31, with a renewable one-year mandate, though ministers will review it every four months to check it is not having a “pull effect” — encouraging migrants to set out on risky crossings over the Mediterranean.

The agreement in February was finally reached over objections from Austria and Hungary, which feared that reviving the mission would create a de facto rescue fleet that would ferry migrants across the sea to Europe.

AFP

Libya’s Warring Parties Suggest Draft Ceasefire Agreement – UN

Libyans wave their national flag as they take part in a celebration marking the Libyan revolution, which toppled strongman Moamer Kadhafi, in Benghazi on February 17, 2020. Abdullah DOMA / AFP
Libyans wave their national flag as they take part in a celebration marking the Libyan revolution, which toppled strongman Moamer Kadhafi, in Benghazi on February 17, 2020. Abdullah DOMA / AFP

 

Libya’s warring sides have proposed a draft ceasefire agreement that would see the United Nations monitor the safe return of civilians to their homes, the UN said Monday.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it would facilitate the ceasefire process alongside a military commission with members from both sides.

The announcement came after a second round of indirect military talks in Geneva between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

The talks, mediated by UN envoy Ghassan Salame, are aimed at brokering lasting ceasefire to fighting that has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 since last April, according to the UN.

Several rounds of talks focused on economic issues, including fairer distribution of Libya’s oil wealth, have also taken place in Egypt and Tunisia, and talks towards a political solution are scheduled to start in Geneva on Wednesday.

UNSMIL said it and the two parties had “prepared a draft ceasefire agreement to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas with the implementation of a joint monitoring mechanism”.

“The two parties agreed to present the draft agreement to their respective leaderships for further consultations and to meet again next month,” the statement said.

The next meeting would be dedicated to drawing up terms of reference for the committee in charge of the implementation of the agreement, it said.

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival armed factions still vying for power.

In the latest outbreak of fighting, Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital.

AFP

Libyan Commander Ready To Fight Turkish Forces If Peace Talks Fail

This handout picture released by the Russian Foreign Ministry on January 13, 2020 shows Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcoming Libya’s military strongman Khalifa Haftar in Moscow.
HO / RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY / AFP

 

Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar vowed on Friday to fight Turkish forces if peace talks in Geneva failed, in comments to a Russian news agency.

The eastern military commander, who is backed by Russia, gave the interview to RIA Novosti after meeting Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday.

“If talks in Geneva do not achieve peace and security for our country, if mercenaries do not return to where they were brought from, the armed forces will fulfil their constitutional obligations… to defend against the Turkish Ottoman invaders,” Haftar said in translated comments.

Talks between the warring parties in Geneva ended earlier this month with no result.

A second-round began Tuesday, but broke down after rocket fire hit a port in Tripoli. Talks then resumed Thursday.

The oil-rich country has been mired in chaos since 2011 when a NATO-backed uprising led to the killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Haftar launched an offensive to capture Tripoli in April.

Turkey supports the UN-recognised government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, with whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November signed a deal on security, maritime and military cooperation.

“As we’ve said, our patience is at the limit due to the regular violations of the ceasefire by groups of fighters hired by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Libyan Prime Minister Sarraj,” Haftar said, accusing them of failing to fulfil promises they made in Berlin.

At a Berlin summit last month, countries including Russia, Turkey, France and Egypt agreed to end foreign interference in Libya and respect a UN arms embargo.

Haftar added that his forces “are assessing the situation in Tripoli, are in contact with the international sides and are ready for all options.”

Moscow and Ankara together brokered a tenuous truce in Libya last month. The two sides agreed to end fighting, but the ceasefire has been violated.

Haftar said Friday that his conditions for a ceasefire were “withdrawal of Syria and Turkish mercenaries, Turkey stopping supplies of weapons to Tripoli and the liquidation of terrorist groups.”

The UN envoy to Libya, Ghassan Salame, said Thursday that his mission to secure a lasting ceasefire and eventually a political solution was “very difficult” but “possible.”

 

AFP