Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Salame, Deputy Permanent Representative of Sweden, and Ms. Sharief, for your briefings.
When we talk about Libya today, so many of the problems we face go back to one key issue: respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This conflict began when the Libyan people rejected the Qadhafi regime’s decades of oppression and tyranny. This brutal dictatorship left Libya with weak institutions, which gave political spoilers, criminal gangs, and terrorists a chance to exploit Libya for their own purposes.
After organizing a revolution to demand a more stable, unified, and prosperous future for all, the Libyan people have yet to achieve this fundamental goal. That is why the United States stands firmly behind the efforts of Special Representative Salame and behind implementation of the UN Action Plan. As we have said many times before, political dialogue and reconciliation is the only way forward. There is no alternative to the UN process. There is a window of opportunity right now for Council members to push for new momentum in the political process, and that is where we must focus all of our effort.
The recent video of African migrants being sold into slavery shows the dire consequences of allowing Libya’s security vacuum to continue. It was a profoundly disturbing sight. The existence of slave markets anywhere in the world must offend the conscience of every decent human being. These heinous abuses of human rights must come to an end. We appreciate that Libya’s Government of National Accord swiftly condemned slavery in all forms and made a commitment to investigate and hold those responsible to account. This investigation should proceed quickly and transparently. An untold number of migrants continue to be detained in camps outside of government control, where their captors assault them and deprive them of food.
This ongoing crisis shows just how urgent it is to support Libyan efforts to stabilize the country. The Libyan people deserve a government able to provide basic services, enforce the rule of law, and guarantee security, including the protection of the most vulnerable.
The United States is committed to the humane treatment and protection of migrants and refugees. We strongly support the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration in their work to improve conditions for migrants in Libya and to help those with claims to protection.
Since 2011, we have contributed generously to these organizations to address this regional crisis, including more than $150 million to ease suffering in Libya, including support for refugees, vulnerable migrants, and the internally displaced. But there is much more work to do. We appreciate Libya’s cooperation with UNHCR and IOM, and urge them to deepen this collaboration.
As a Security Council, we can look for opportunities to identify and designate for sanctions the individuals and criminal networks responsible for the human rights abuses against migrants. The United States will also continue our efforts with UNSMIL and other UN agencies to strengthen Libyan police and security institutions, and we urge others to join us.
Libya’s wealth and natural resources are also at risk. These are resources that should be protected and used to benefit all Libyans. But political spoilers and criminal gangs are diverting these assets for themselves. The United States strongly condemns these actions. We are especially concerned about fuel smuggling, and we will continue to press the Security Council to sanction any vessels involved in these criminal activities. We expect all UN Member States to fully comply with their obligations regarding ship designations. Stepping up sanctions enforcement would be another step toward disrupting the criminal networks that contribute to the instability in Libya.
While ISIS has been weakened in Libya, the threat of terrorism is very real. Libya must not be a safe haven for terrorists to plot attacks, and terrorist groups must be defeated to secure a peaceful future for the Libyan people. The only viable solution to these security, economic, and migration challenges is a political solution to the current crisis.
The United States is committed to a strong, unified Libya, which is why President Trump hosted Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj in Washington recently. The United States commends Prime Minister Sarraj’s leadership and the efforts of the Government of National Accord to support a political solution. There is no room here for political spoilers. The United States will oppose attempts to impose a military solution to this political crisis, which would further undermine Libya’s stability. Those who pursue a military solution will wind up helping terrorist groups that thrive on instability. The only legitimate path to power is through free and fair elections. We welcome the recent progress with voter registration in Libya, including significant numbers of youth and women who have already signed up to vote.
The United States is providing assistance to Libya’s High National Election Commission to help prepare as well. To build on this progress, the House of Representatives must uphold its commitment to pass laws for a constitutional referendum and for elections this year, in consultation with the High State Council.
As the Libyans prepare for elections, we support UN efforts to promote more effective and accountable governance for this transitional period. All Libyan parties should engage constructively with the UN to strengthen the Libyan Political Agreement. The Security Council has affirmed that the Libyan Political Agreement must remain the framework for the political process throughout the country’s transitional period.
The fact is that after decades of tyranny followed by years of fighting and chaos, the Libyan people deserve a better future. Libya’s political leaders must set aside their personal agendas and come together for the sake of peace. The Libyan people deserve a stable, unified, democratic government, with institutions that are capable of stamping out the abuses of criminal networks and non-state militias. The door to a more peaceful Libya is open through engagement with the UN’s political process. The United States urges all parties in Libya to seize this opportunity without further delay.