Elections Remain ‘Only Credible Pathway to Legitimate, Unified Governance’ in Libya, Secretary-General Tells African Union High-Level Committee

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya, in Addis Ababa today:

I welcome the opportunity to address this African Union High-Level Committee.  My thanks to [Democratic Republic of the Congo] President [Denis] Sassou Nguesso for his stewardship of the African Union’s efforts on Libya.

I have been totally committed to overcoming the misunderstandings of the past, and I am happy that the excellent collaboration between our two organizations is today a cornerstone of our collective efforts to resolve the crisis.

Allow me at the outset to make a fundamental point in relation to the United Nations’ position on Libya.  We have no agenda and no goal but one:  to secure the right of the Libyan people to live in peace; to vote in free and fair elections; and to share in the prosperity of their country.

This is a priority for both the United Nations and the African Union.  I firmly believe it can be achieved.  What is urgently needed is the political will to break the protracted political stalemate and achieve progress on multiple fronts.

First, we need progress towards elections.  A little over a year ago — in December 2021 — Libya was on the verge of holding historic presidential and parliamentary elections.  Legal disputes and other challenges forced their cancellation.

I understand — and I share — the growing frustrations of the Libyan people.  The absence of elections worsens economic insecurity, heightens political instability, risks renewed conflict and raises the spectre of partition.

The United Nations continues to be committed to a Libyan-owned and Libyan-led solution.  My Special Representative has engaged the Libyan parties — as well as international partners — to agree on a constitutional basis for elections by the end of this month.  But, without agreement, the United Nations, in close collaboration with key Libyan stakeholders, the African Union and international partners should propose and pursue alternative mechanisms.  There is no alternative to elections.  They remain the only credible pathway to legitimate, unified governance.

Second, we need further progress on the security front.  Fortunately, the 2020 ceasefire agreement continues to hold.  I commend the work of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, convened by my Special Representative, which represents an instrument of hope for all Libyans.  I also commend the engagement of the African Union as Co-Chair of the Berlin Process Security Working Group, which has provided critical support to the success of the military commission.

The next priority of the Joint Military Commission must be the complete withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya.  We all recall how Libya’s descent into conflict was fuelled by foreign interference.

In this context, I welcome the recent meeting in Cairo between the 5+5 Joint Military Commission and representatives of Libya, Sudan and Niger under United Nations auspices.  The decision to establish a coordination and information-sharing committee is an important step towards greater stability and peace in Libya and the wider region.

Third, we need progress towards national reconciliation.  I am grateful for the efforts of this Committee to support an inclusive national reconciliation process.  My Special Representative recently attended the preparatory forum of the reconciliation conference in Tripoli.  He then travelled to Brazzaville to meet President Sassou Nguesso and explore ways in which the United Nations could support the African Union’s efforts.  Let me reaffirm our readiness to assist this African Union-led endeavour in the spirit of African Union-United Nations cooperation.

Finally, we need progress on human rights.  Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers continue to suffer serious abuses with impunity.  Thousands who attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea are returned to Libya and detained in inhumane and degrading conditions with restricted humanitarian assistance.  Thousands more are unaccounted for.

I reiterate my call for all countries involved to respect the integrity of international refugee law, and for Libyan authorities to find rights-based alternatives to detention, in line with international human rights law.  The United Nations and the African Union — together with other key regional actors and organizations — must work together to support the Libyan people in realizing their legitimate aspirations to a more peaceful and prosperous future.  I count on your unwavering commitment.

For information media. Not an official record.