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Iran Press TV

Foreign meddling in Libya at unprecedented levels: UN chief

Iran Press TV

Thursday, 09 July 2020 7:13 AM

The United Nations (UN) secretary-general warns that foreign interference in the conflict in Libya has reached "unprecedented" levels.

"The [Libyan] conflict has entered a new phase, with foreign interference reaching unprecedented levels, including in the delivery of sophisticated equipment and the number of mercenaries involved in the fighting," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an address to a high-level virtual meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

He said both the delivery of weapons and the dispatch of proxy forces were in violation of a UN arms embargo on Libya.

Since 2014, two rival seats of power have emerged in Libya, namely the internationally-recognized government, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA), and another group based in the eastern city of Tobruk.

The latter camp is supported militarily by an array of rebel militia under the command of a former general named Khalifa Haftar.

The rebels receive support from the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Russia, and Jordan. The GNA is backed by Turkey.

Foreign patrons on both sides are accused of sending in advanced weapons and proxies.

In the past couple of weeks, government forces have pushed the rebels as far back as the city of Sirte, on the Mediterranean coastline, where a major battle now looms. The government advances are believed to have come with crucial Turkish support.

Guterres said the "GNA units, with significant external support, continued their advance eastward, and are now 25 kilometers west of Sirte after two previous attempts to gain control of the city."

He expressed concern about the military buildup around Sirte.

Russia is accused of supporting Haftar in his bid to oust the GNA, but Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected the allegation in the same UNSC session on Wednesday.

"But we know about other countries' military personnel, including from those countries that accuse us, to be present on Libyan soil, East and West," Nebenzia said, calling on all countries with influence on the Libyan parties to push for a permanent ceasefire.

The UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash also told the UNSC that there had been "roughly 10,000 Syrian mercenaries operating in Libya, approximately twice as many as there were six months ago."

Turkey is accused of sending those militants.

Guterres said that, between April and June this year, the UN mission in Libya had documented at least 102 civilians deaths and 254 civilians injuries, showing a 172 percent increase compared to the first quarter of the year.

He said there had also been at least 21 attacks on medical facilities, ambulances, and medical personnel in Libya.

International attempts to bring about peace between the warring sides in Libya have so far failed. The country first plunged into chaos in 2011, when a popular uprising and a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

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