The US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker said Wednesday that the best way to address Libya’s crisis is to stop the fighting that started in early April, saying foreign intervention has escalated and could escalate yet further in the days to come, posing a threat to the international order in the Eastern Mediterranean and to U.S. interests in the region.
“Now is the time to wind this conflict down.
And the best way to stop the fighting is to stop the foreign intervention fueling it, in the form of weapons, personnel, and funds.” Schenker said in a US Senate hearing.
He added that last week, the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ghassan Salame, convened representatives from the GNA and the LNA for talks aimed at establishing a ceasefire,
beginning with the—scaled and incremental—withdrawal of foreign mercenaries.
“This is the first time in a year that the two sides of the conflict have engaged about an end to the violence.” He added, saying this initial meeting did not result in a formal agreement. Sustained efforts will be required to secure and implement a ceasefire, and we are pressing both sides to engage constructively.
“Nearly 700 Libyan civilians have died since these clashes began in April. Nearly 200,000 children were unable to attend school at various points in 2019. Multiple health facilities lack supplies and medicine. The fighting threatens civilian lives, infrastructure, and civil
aviation. According to the International Organization for Migration, as of December 2019, over 355,000 Libyans have been displaced.” Schenker explained.
He added that they had repeatedly emphasized to all stakeholders that there is no durable military solution to the Libyan conflict. The United States supports the UN Special Representative’s work to promote a Libyan political process. Ultimately, the Libyan people must resolve this crisis.
“Libyan leaders who are contributing to the ongoing conflict – and those who back them militarily – must establish and respect the truce, de-escalate to achieve a sustainable ceasefire, and refocus efforts on a Libyan-led political process. Negotiations need to seriously address difficult issues driving the conflict, including the dismantling of non-state armed groups—“militias”—that operate with impunity; the rooting out of extremist elements; and the reunification and reform of Libya’s economic institutions to ensure transparency and the just distribution of Libya’s resources.
“Achieving a political solution and moving toward national reconciliation will take time. If the violence continues, it will only harden positions on all sides and make finding a viable solution more difficult.” He said.
The United States continues to undertake efforts to achieve stability in this geopolitically significant, oil rich nation. We are conveying to Libyans on all sides of the conflict – as well as their foreign backers
– that the conflict must be resolved through negotiations.
“We have sanctioned spoilers threatening Libyan peace and stability and will continue to make use of those authorities when warranted, but there is no substitute for consistent engagement. U.S. diplomats work daily with Libyans across the political spectrum to find common ground on the issues that divide them.” He added.