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'Magnitude of dangers facing Libya should not be underestimated,' UN envoy tells Security Council

5 November 2015 – The magnitude of the dangers facing Libya should not be underestimated, the top UN official in the country told the Security Council today, noting that despite the passing of the timeline by which the United Nations had hoped a final political settlement would be endorsed, there is yet to be a final agreement.

"Since the high-level meeting on Libya which took place on the margins of the General Assembly on 2 October, [the UN Support Mission in Libya, UNSMIL] convened what should have been a final round of talks in Skhirat, Morocco to facilitate Libyan deliberations on the composition of the Presidency Council that would lead the country's future Government of National Accord," Bernardino León, the Head of UNSMIL, told the Security Council.

Indeed, after four days of intensive consultations which concluded on 8 October, members of the Libyan political dialogue process had succeeded in forging consensus on a list of six nominees, including a Prime Minister designate, three deputy Prime Ministers, and two Senior Ministers.

According to Mr. León, the proposed composition of the Presidency Council was seen as a means of securing the necessary consensus and inclusivity that would allow for a Government of National Accord to assume office with the requisite support and backing of all relevant political and security stakeholders, as well as the Libyan public at large.

"While the proposal was hailed as a major breakthrough in the dialogue process, strong objections were voiced in some quarters, notably from within the House of Representatives, for what was perceived as inadequate representation for the east, particularly Benghazi," he explained, in what is expected to be his last address to the Council as UNSMIL chief.

In the three weeks that followed the announcement of the proposed composition of the Presidency Council, the official indicated that the United Nations has consulted closely with parties from across the political spectrum in an effort to resolve outstanding concerns regarding representation.

In this regard, he said there appears to be growing support to the idea of expanding the Presidency Council "as a means of consolidating and safeguarding Libya's historical traditions of geographical and regional balance and representation."

"Despite the passing of the 21 October constitutional timeline by which we had hoped that a final political settlement would be agreed and endorsed by the main political stakeholders, there is yet to be a formal and final pronouncement by either of the main political stakeholders on the Libyan Political Agreement and the proposed Presidency Council," he noted.

Meanwhile, working closely with representatives of the international community, Mr. León said UNSMIL continued to impress upon both the Libyan House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based General National Congress the need to urgently convene sessions that would allow for a democratic vote on the Political Agreement and proposals for the Presidency Council.

"While I have always remained hopeful about the chances of Libya's leaders reaching a peaceful agreement, I have had no illusions about the difficulties and challenges that would likely face the political dialogue process," he told the Council.

He added that the growing influence of terrorist and other extremist groups is posing a direct threat to the very authority of the Libyan State, with "the cruelty and barbarity witnessed in areas under their control an omen of what may yet come unless there is united action to contain and eliminate this growing threat."

"Equally important is the scale of human suffering," Mr. León continued. "The political and military conflict has exacted a heavy toll on the Libyan people. Death and displacement have become an all too common a theme, particularly in Benghazi which has for the longest duration borne the brunt of the conflict in Libya. Massive displacement of population, the destruction of entire civilian neighbourhoods and vital infrastructure, and large-scale human rights abuses which continue to take place on a regular basis have scarred the city beyond the recognition."

He added that the "cowardly targeting by terrorists of peaceful demonstrators" in the city on 23 October is an urgent reminder of the need to expedite efforts towards peace, and that restoring peace and stability to Benghazi will be the first step towards stabilising Libya.

During his address to the Council, Mr. León also reminded Libya's leaders that they have a unique opportunity to reach a political settlement that could spares their country and people further bloodshed and destruction. "The proposed Agreement was never intended to provide a panacea for all of Libya's problems, but rather to lay out a set of structures and principles that would guide the next phase of Libya's political transition until such time that the constitution making process is completed," he stated.

Ending his remarks, he said the next few days will be critical to Libya's future. "While the United Nations will continue to encourage the two main political stakeholders to formally endorse the Political Agreement and the proposed composition of the Presidency Council, it will also continue working with the moderate voices from the different dialogue tracks as well as from across Libya's political and civil society spectrum, as well as those among security actors, for the sake of forging a viable way forward."

In conclusion, he said the onus is now on Libya's leaders to forge a new political reality and bring a decisive and permanent end to their country's political turmoil and armed conflict.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Martin Kobler, the current Head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), will succeed Mr. León as Head of UNSMIL.

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